TRANSITION Town Dorchester says it has stepped up to help local people during the past year – and has seen a growth in interest in its work.

The venture, which is supported by the Duchy of Cornwall, has a small volunteer farm at Poundbury which includes a polytunnel, geese and beehives with an orchard on the site and another elsewhere in the town.

Interest in the group has grown during lockdown with more people taking on growing fruit and vegetables and trying different forms of creativity.

Kate Forrester, from the group, said that the year had also seen volunteers plant 2,000 trees between Poundbury and the A35 and had offered time for NHS support workers and their clients and students from Weymouth College with autism.

She said many found belonging to the group, of just dropping in, very supportive, especially this year: “We often stop work to have a chat, a chat, or even cake,” she said.

But the year had also resulted in financial pressures for the not for profit community group, with the need to find around £350 for the annual rent and a similar sum for necessary insurances. With other expenses annual outgoings amount to around £900.

The year also saw someone cut all the plastic from the polytunnel which was replaced, free of charge, by the company First Tunnels. It is thought that the intention was not vandalism but to sell on the plastic from the framework, the material being carefully cut from the frame, but then abandoned. Police believe the thieves may have been disturbed before they could carry off their haul.

Kate Forrester says getting water to the site has remained a problem with a rainwater harvesting system from nearby buildings off Middle Farm Way, which had been planned, still not in use.

She said that this year the group is experimenting with new crops in some of its raised beds including sweet potatoes, loofahs and turmeric, as well as more traditional plants.

Further information about the group is available on its website which also lists opportunities for volunteering.