Hoe Downs

The Rode Hoedown is back up and running!

Initiated by Elaine Butler in 2022, regular “Hoe Downs” are continuing in 2023, led by Jonathan Bowler.

Frome has been running a ‘Hoedown’ for a few years. It started there as a way to get volunteers to clear weeds around Frome (with hoes, amongst other implements) and reduce the need to spray chemicals to maintain paths and other public spaces. In Rode, there was a feeling that we could do something similar leading to the imaginatively title ‘Rode Hoedown’ (I’m providing this background, because I’ve been asked why it’s called the ‘Hoedown’ and whether we should give it a new name – all ideas/suggestions are welcome…..).

The Rode Hoedown is run, mostly, on every last Sunday of the month and, during 2023, is likely to run every month from March until October – basically while the weather is good.

The March Hoedown (Report by Jonathan Bowler)

By kicking off in March, most weeds had not had time to get established in the village. This is despite the fact that weeds have already formed a fairly sizeable ‘advance party’ in my small garden in preparation for the inevitable late spring assault. The absence of an obvious biological foe, left me looking for something else that the first Rode Hoedown ‘23 volunteers could tack and I settled on litter picking.

Sadly, as with much of the UK, we do have quite a quantity of litter in and around the village. A number of us pick litter along Straight and Crooked Lanes where litter can be a mix of decades old or recent, habitual (quick beer on the way home) waste. But, given the numbers of people volunteering for the March event, I felt that we’d get the ‘biggest bang for our buck’ along the stretch of Rode Hill between the Bradford Road junction and A361. With hindsight, although I think that the end result was good, a few of the volunteers did point out that it was quite a way from the collection point and I think that they were absolutely right. I had borrowed a wheelbarrow to move some of the full sacks around. But I must really thank Sue Shannon and Jonathan Smith who kindly allowed their cars to be filled with the ‘fragrant’ rubbish. Without their kind offer, I doubt that this location would have really worked.

Before getting started, people who had kindly volunteered to give up a couple of hours of their Sunday gathered in front of the Memorial Hall to listen to me drone on about health and safety (watch for traffic, don’t lift stuff that looks unhealthy or heavy etc.), adding insult to some level of potential injury.

We quickly got started and, even before we got to the intended litter pick area, people were collecting quite a lot of litter from Rode Hill between the junction with the High Street and the Bradford Road junction. It was clear that there was enough there, alone, to occupy a few of the volunteers.

In spite of my wonderfully delivered health and safety briefing that included warnings to avoid entering the ditches where there may be a risk of trips, falls, ankle injury and like, it seemed that a number of us found the ditches most interesting with a rich seam of litter to be ‘mined’. Perhaps the most enthusiastic in this respect were Jonathan Smith and Howard and Diana Russell. Moira busily kept to the ‘high road’ and cleared the verges. It was also great to catch up with Dario Nucci who has recently moved to Rode and has immediately got stuck in. Thanks also to Cathy and Nick, Gill and Jeremy, Jim McAuliffe and the inestimable Mr. Salmon for their great combined efforts.

Dubious ‘highlights’ of the litter pick included four worn tyres found in the lay-by (just over a week later, another four were donated, but these were collected by Mendip), a powder fire extinguisher that collapsed when I tried to lift it due to corrosion, a broken Dyson vacuum cleaner, a museum piece of a TV/Video player and enough spare car parts to construct a Vauxhall/VW/Toyota ‘Frankenstein’ car.

In the end, we collected some 40 bags of litter plus assorted bits and pieces. Mendip DC’s waste contractor (iVerde) collected the litter from in front of the Memorial Hall the following day and also provided the litter pickers, hi-vis vests and industrial strength plastic bags.

Jonathan Bowler.

3 August 2023
Last Updated
3 August 2023