Milford and its environs boast a population of around 13,000. The town is largely disconnected; it is 100 miles west of Cardiff and in a rural county with very few services and transport links. The decline of the fishing industry and high street in the town centre are among many changes that have been difficult for local people to adjust to. Milford Haven was one of the areas that featured in stage one of the Rural Wisdom project from 2017 to 2019.
How it all began
Our work in Milford Haven began with detailed conversations with local residents in order to establish what was working well in the area and what could be improved with support from Rural Wisdom. We attended events in the town hall, at the Pill Social Centre, the library and Milford Youth Matters among others. As well attending meetings and events in these community spaces, we also carried out leaflet drops, email newsletters and held get-togethers and activities, using small sums of project money to kickstart activity.
In Milford Haven, the main feeling was that people did not really know what was going on in the town. The key area the community identified as being a priority for Rural Wisdom involvement was to improve communication throughout the community so that residents were better informed as to what was taking place in the area and the ways in which they could get involved. Better communication directly improved access to the activities and services in the area because people knew about them.
What’s On event listing
People felt disconnected from what was going on in their town. With a significant population of older people who neither went to the library or the leisure centre, did not read the local newspaper or any form of digital information, being able to pick up an event listing gave them a vital means of connection to their community. We designed the What’s On event listing to be delivered in limited numbers of hard copies and shared widely online through a burgeoning email network. The email network grew as more residents became aware of the service and wanted to get involved. Once Rural Wisdom established the What’s On guide, it was subsequently taken on by Milford Youth Matters and two years after the completion of Rural Wisdom’s involvement in the area, it is going strong.
Connecting social groups with volunteers
By giving voice to the needs of older residents in the area, Rural Wisdom highlighted the need for volunteers and community members to get involved. By highlighting areas of needs, we were able to connect volunteers to social groups and initiatives such as the PALs scheme and Monday Knitting Group. By ensuring the continued delivery of these services there was a more bustling social scene in the area and attendance was grown through promotion in the What’s On event listing.
What we achieved
It was felt that the town and its community deserved some attention having lost most of its fishing fleet and following a big petrochemical company having recently left the area. By being active in the community and providing a means of connecting people we were able to dramatically reduce feelings of isolation amongst older residents. Improving access to information led to greater uptake of activities and services throughout the community highlighting the importance of older voices and the progress that can be achieved by their inclusion in planning community life.