Fringe Box



A Tidy Grassy Plot Makes For A Better Place In Which To Live

Published on: 18 Aug, 2014
Updated on: 23 Aug, 2014

Journalist Anna Valentina is from Russia and currently living in Guildford. Through the Guildford Volunteer Centre she is writing news and features for the Joining In! project’s website that supports community involvement in Westborough and Park Barn.

Here is another of Anna’s stories – about a patch of land in Northway that has been transformed by local residents.

Have you ever heard about the broken windows theory? If not, it is a criminology theory, which states that maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop vandalism and its escalation into more serious crime.

This is just because of a simple rule – if the environment is tidy it is harder to start misbehaving.

Brian Holt and Raineee Wornham watering the plants in Northway.

Brian Holt and Raineee Wornham watering the plants in Northway.

This rule of human psychology works everywhere. You can see a very good example of that in the Westborough area in Guildford, where two local residents, Rainee Wornham and Brian Holt, have volunteered to tidied up what was a messy grass plot in Northway near the entrance to Stoughton Recreation Ground.

I met them carrying two cans for watering the summer flowers they have recently planted there. Of course, it might be easier to use a garden hose, but the two wooden raised planters are too far from their homes, so they have to walk up and down several times to water all the flowers.

“I attend so much to this area of grass and the planters that even my own garden is somewhat neglected, but it is all right,” said Rainee, while looking proudly at the results of her and Brian’s hard volunteering work.

Her friends call her the Mental Pixie, and this nickname is well suited for a tiny enthusiastic woman who could produce miracles.

The planters looking good this summer.

The planters looking good this summer.

The idea to clean up the area sprang into Rainee’s mind seven years ago. She just could not stand the sight of that patch of a land covered by weeds and rubbish.

According to her, the abandoned territory was affecting the whole community. People considered the area as a bit of a dump and all sorts of litter was dropped there.

Rainee recalls: “You could easily find lots of empty bottles, trashed cans, used needles, pets’ poo or even human faeces.

“It was so disgusting and nobody cleaned it up. People felt the local authorities outcasted them.”

She decided to take charge of the situation, so contacted Guildford Borough Council and asked if it could help to clean the plot. The negotiations took several years: people from the council came and went making estimates, and finally decided to support Rainee’s initiative. This has been part of the Westborough Works Project.

A year ago, funding from Travel SMART and the council has seen not only the cleaning up of the grass area – with wooden posts surrounding the triangle of land, wooden raised planters, a litter bin, the purchase of trees and plants and some gardening tools – but the clearing of bushes and a new fence put up beside the entrance to the recreation ground.

Funding by Surrey County Councillor Fiona White has paid for a notice board too.

The transformed patch of land has worked like a charm. The area is a much safer place now.

According to Rainee, antisocial behaviour has all but vanished. People do not drop litter anymore and are confident walking to the entrance of the recreation ground. Teenagers also seem to respect the work that’s been done.

Brian recalls that both he and Rainee were very worried about the fate of newly planted trees. He said: “We thought they might be broken by teenagers, as they had done with trees in the park before. But, as you can see, they are doing well. The progress has been huge.”

IN the background you can see the area that was cleared of overgrown bushes and other undergrowth.

In the background is part of the area that was cleared of overgrown bushes and other undergrowth.

Rainee and Brian have proved that mending the ‘broken windows’ definitely works. Now the biggest task is to keep the area looking lovely and tidy, and this calls for more hands and for additional expense.

If you could spare some time volunteering to help, email Rainee, who is also one of the local neighbourhood watch co-ordinators, at

Or maybe, if you are willing, you might like to donate a few quid to the onging upkeep.

You can also call Joining In! co-ordinator David Rose on 07825 419408.

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Responses to A Tidy Grassy Plot Makes For A Better Place In Which To Live

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    August 19, 2014 at 11:46 am

    What an excellent example of public spirit; it should be encouraged and praised, without embarrassing those involved.

    Keep it up! We need more people like this.

  2. Rainee Wornham Reply

    August 20, 2014 at 11:22 am

    I would like to thank Dragon reader Jim Allen for his kind words and encouragement.

    I feel it is time communities take action and take charge of land that has been neglected. As the reporter Anna Valentina stated, the broken window theory clearly works. It is hard work but the benefits outweigh the sleepless nights.

    If any one is thinking of taking on such a project I would only be to happy to help them with advice on how to get the ball rolling etc.

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