From rubbish collections to rural libraries Cambridgeshire charity led the way

Cambridgeshire ACRE celebrating 90 years of community work across Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire ACRE celebrating 90 years of community work across Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

A pioneering charity set up to to help preserve rural life is celebrating its 90th birthday later this month.

Cambridgeshire ACRE celebrating 90 years of community work across Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire ACRE celebrating 90 years of community work across Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire ACRE, the Rural Community Council for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough was founded in the aftermath of the Great War and the agricultural depression of the 1920s to help local communities to shoulder responsibility for rural life, which was underthreat due to the disappearance of old land owners.

In its early days, the organisation worked with local government to help organise voluntary efforts and test out pioneering ideas such as rubbish disposal schemes and the loaning of books to rural areas to form the first libraries.

During the Second World War, support concentrated on community food efforts including the preservation of fruit and breeding clubs for rabbits, pigs and goats.

Kirsten Bennett today’s Chief Executive of the Charity said: “Few people know the history or even remember a small proportion of the activities for which the charity has been responsible at some time or another. The organisation’s annual reports, meeting minutes, project records, photos and other archives paint a unique picture of social and economic change over the last 90 years. They tell the story of key events, activities and decisions that have had an effect on people’s lives.

Cambridgeshire ACRE celebrating 90 years of community work across Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire ACRE celebrating 90 years of community work across Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

Since 1924 the organisation has been heavily involved in the building and management of village halls. The first village hall built with financial support from the Rural Community Council in 1925 was Weston Colville Reading Room in South Cambridgeshire. Ninety years later 97% of parishes across Cambridgeshire have a village hall that is managed by a committee of volunteers.

In the early years housing work was concentrated around the improvement of workers’ cottages. Today, the organisation runs an extensive affordable housing programme that identifies hidden housing need in rural parishes and works with local authorities, registered social landlords and parish to build homes. Last year 126 new homes were built across six parishes.

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In 2014 the organisation remains strongly involved in business improvement through managing EU LEADER grant programmes, over £6 million has been invested in local farm businesses, micro-enterprises and community run social enterprises.

One element has remained constant throughout the charity’s history; that is the contribution made by local volunteers working tirelessly in every Parish to ‘shoulder the responsibility for rural life’.

Cambridgeshire ACRE celebrating 90 years of community work across Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire ACRE celebrating 90 years of community work across Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

To celebrate this achievement, the charity is holding an extended afternoon of celebration at The Manor Barn in Harlton in south Cambridgeshire on September 23, where its past and current work will be showcased together with a timeline exhibition. The annual meeting will also be held and there will be a talk from local historian, Mike Petty.

Top 10 tips as heating oil customers urged to buy early

Heating oil users are being urged to follow 10 top tips by Cambridgeshire ACRE as its annual ‘buy early’ campaign begins.

The 10 tips include advice on looking after your oil tank, guarding against theft, dealing with suppliers and joining an oil buying club. See http://www.acre.org.uk/rural-issues/oil-buying for full details.

Cambridgeshire ACRE, a member of the national ACRE Network of rural community councils, says stocking up early has a range of benefits. Prices and demand tend to be lower in late summer and delivery is not disrupted by increased demand and icy weather.

ACRE Chief Executive Janice Banks said: “Research shows 36pc of homes in rural areas are off the gas grid, so many households rely on heating oil. In times of high demand, prices can increase rapidly, leaving the most vulnerable unable to afford to adequately heat their homes.

“We are urging households to buy their oil early so that they are prepared when the colder weather arrives and the time comes to switch on the heating.

“One of the best ways to save money is to set up or join an oil buying group which can buy in bulk and negotiate the best price. Twenty-five members of the ACRE Network have set up oil-buying groups. Last year, they bought more than 13 million litres of oil between them, saving £650,000 on behalf of rural customers.”

Cambridgeshire ACRE runs an oil-buying scheme which buys more than 400,000 litres of oil per year on behalf of its 260 members.

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