Community rallies to help The Ardagh

A difficult and upsetting few days last month for those who use and enjoy Horfield Common, including the staff of the Ardagh Community Trust (ACT) and its Cafe on the Common, ended on a positive note thanks to the support of the local community who turned out to donate time and money to get everything up and running again. 

At the beginning of June, about 70 caravans parked up on the Common, leading to what a council spokesperson described as “high levels of anti-social behaviour and criminality associated with the site”.

 Residents in the area, enjoying the peace of the Common and the facilities of the ACT, were left crying and shaking according to the ACT’s CEO, Sam Thomson. She told of people visibly upset after being shouted or sworn at and staff left feeling intimidated by a number of distressing incidents in the cafe. 

The decision was made to close the cafe and all facilities for everyone’s safety. After the behaviour escalated into rocks thrown at toddlers, fences chopped with chainsaws, parkrun equipment stolen and fire extinguishers set off, the caravans were evicted from the site within two days. 

However, a huge clear-up operation was then required to ensure that the site and cafe could reopen and get back to normal as quickly as possible. And this is where the true spirit of the local community proved the old adage about adversity bringing out the best in us. 

Sam and her team at ACT were able to reopen the cafe and wider site just two days after the encampment were moved on and thanked everyone who came out to help clear up and restore the common to its normal state. Security also remained on site for another 24 hours, offering much appreciated support and reassurance to staff. 

Sam posted on social media at the time: “thank you to every single one of the 138 local people who have made donations to the Trust over the last couple of days; it means an enormous amount to the team to see and feel the support from the community after what has been a difficult – and at times very frightening – few days. All donations will be used to replace smashed signage, repair broken items and reinstate areas that have been vandalised. Your support is hugely valuable to us and means everything”.