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News, Groups and Activities!

CAT Bus Bingo Night Fundraiser

The CAT Bus, the essential transport service for the community, is holding a fundraising Bingo evening, on Saturday 2nd April.

WWC Fight Night - the latest fundraiser

Raising money for The Balsam Centre and billed as "Wincanton’s FIRST EVER White Collar Fight Night", this evening of boxing takes place at Wincanton’s Sports Centre, and the ticket includes food and drinks.

Our groups are re-opening - the walks and the Breastfeeding Cafe are open, and others are coming soon - read on!

Trustees Wanted!

We're all about healthy, happy lives. Will you join us? The Balsam Centre has a small number of vacancies coming up on our Board and we are looking for people to support and guide us. If you or someone you know might be interested, head over to our Volunteering Page for more information.

The Winter Fair

Another very successful Winter Fair took place in November, with Covid restrictions - and managed to raise more than the last one 2019!. A record amount of trash and treasure was collected for the fair - everyone had a clear out over lockdown, didn't they? So if you are thinking of clearing out this year, save your treasure for the next fair!


Christmas Hampers

Jani and her team packed up the Christmas hampers this year and delivered them to families struggling at Christmas. Helping families is important to us. Last year, one child told her mother that she felt people really cared about them - that's what really matters.

New - Women's Shed

If COVID-19 taught us anything, it was the pleasure that could be gained from arts and crafts, and slowing down. This new group will be a place to persue your own project, along with demonstrations.

New - Introduction to Drawing - for absolute beginners

A new six week course on how to draw for beginners is starting on the 2nd March - limited to 6 in the class, at just £3 each!

Loose Ends Lunches have restarted!

Understandably, several people feel nervous about coming out too soon, so we will continue to deliver lunches too for a while yet.

The cafe has restarted on Tuesdays, 12.30pm, with lots of social distancing so numbers are limited but we are still delivering to anyone who isn't ready to come out for lunch yet. £4 for over 60's, including delivery.

The Breastfeeding Cafe is open!

Run by trained mums to support other mums, a chance to get advice with a Peer Support Worker and meet other new mums. There will also be Antenatal Information Sessions run through the year.

Explore and Play

This group has replaced the Craft and Play session for the under 5's and their parents and carers. There are now 2 sessions - under 2's and 2-5 years old. Run by Suzi, who has plenty of experience in making exciting play sessions.

The Hive Youth Cafe - a new expansion of the youth group

The group has been running on Thursdays - 6pm - 8pm at The Balsam Centre but it will be running on Monday evenings too, 6pm - 8pm. There are several other activities for young people on at The Balsam Centre - go to the Young People page to find out more about cooking classes, music, and the Teen Drop-in.

We are starting a Retro Gamers' Club

A new group for anyone who would like to play on the XBox 360 again! The group hasn't started yet, but get in contact if you are interested.

A new English Class

For anyone struggling to learn English, this class is going to be starting. If you know of anyone wanting to learn English, please let them know.

Our Painting and Drawing Group is back!

A relaxed art group rather than a class, open to all levels, where people can work on their own project within a friendly group, getting tips and advice. Anyone, whatever level, is welcome to join.

A Life Drawing Class

This is planning to re-open if we have enough people wanted to take it. If you are interested in joining the class, please email infoREMOVEREMOVEREMOVE@REMOVEBalsamCentreREMOVE.REMOVEorgREMOVE.REMOVEuk

Our weekly sewing group in Templecombe

Learn to sew with Julie. This class will re-open at the Social Club once restrictions are lifted.

IT-Help! Sessions

These sessions will start again soon for anyone with a tablet, mobile phone or laptop they need help in using. We have 4 great volunteers who can give you individual support - but we have changed the group to a booking system - call us to book a session. We are also planning to run ABSOLUTE BEGINNER classes to help people get started.


CAT Bus Fundraiser

The Community Action Transport service - the CAT bus, based within The Balsam Centre, is holding a fundraising event for its services.

The CAT bus provides a vital service within the community, enabling people with no transport to get to appointments, events, and to go shopping at the supermarket. For people living in the rural area with no bus service, this is their only means of affordable transport.

To continue to provide this fantastic service, the CAT bus relies on grants and donations. Please support their fundraising Bingo Night!

Saturday, 2nd April, in the Memorial Hall, Wincanton.

Doors open 6.30pm, eyes down 7.30pm

Wincanton Boxing Gym Raising Funds For The Balsam Centre

Saturday 12th March, doors open 5pm

Wincanton’s FIRST EVER White Collar Fight Night at Wincanton’s Sports Centre.

Up to 16 fights with a sit down buffet style food by the The Happy Food Company (including vegetarian options) with two bottles of bubbly per table.

A charity auction in aid of The Balsam Centre will take place in the interval.

Dress code: Smart Casual

Tickets £50 each.

For more information and to book tickets, go to the Wincanton Boxing Gym website

The Winter Fair - Another Fantastic Event

The Winter Fair had another record-breaking event in November at the Racecourse, raising a whopping £15,300 on the day... in three and a half hours! All the proceeds will be going to The Balsam Centre, supporting the local community.

The volunteers had spent the year collecting all the trash and treasure that we threw out of our houses during lockdown - an incredible amount! - sorting it all to go onto different stands like kitchenware, jewellery, and pictures. There was even a stand just for handbags and scarves. And the ever-popular home produce stand.

The fair is organised and run by AMAZING group of local people, who worked so hard during the year to make this event successful. This fair had the added stress of Covid, with the volunteers working within the restrictions to still make this event happen. You have truly gone above and beyond for us! THANK YOU!

If you missed it, come back next year!!

Winter Fair

Winter Fair
Winter Fair
Winter Fair
Winter Fair
Winter Fair
Winter Fair
Winter Fair
Winter Fair
Winter Fair

Fundraising for The Balsam Centre during the Covid Crisis

Jojo Higgins has been on a sponsored walk for The Balsam Centre, Conkers Nursery and The Growing Space!

Jojo set off on her 10km walk with members of staff from Conkers, walking from Wincanton across to Cucklington and back. Well done, Jojo, for completing the walk and a BIG thank you from all of us for your support.

This has been a difficult time for many people in the community and we want to be able to support people in many different ways. Re-opening has the nursery has brought many changes and challenges, and we are about to gradually re-open the rest of the Centre and The Growing Space so we very much appreciate the efforts of Jojo and Louis (see below) to support us.

If you would like to contribute to Jojo's fundraising, please follow this link.

Louis Saunders is running for The Balsam Centre by running around his local park in London!

His story

I will be running 370km around Wandsworth Park which is the equivalent of running from my home in Wandsworth, London to the Balsam Centre in Wincanton, Somerset and back. I hope to complete the journey in around 5 weeks (around 11km a day). My plan is to run everyday after online school.

I'll be raising money for the Balsam Centre which is a community centre in Wincanton. Its aim is to prevent isolation and loneliness in the community and to support those with mental health issues. I think that during these unprecedented times of the coronavirus, it's amazing how charitable people have been but it is easy for smaller charities to be overlooked.

Update: Louis is doing a great job - he is still running to raise money and as of 27th May he has raised an incredible £1,635! Well done, Louis! And thank you!

Louis Saunders running to raise money
Louis Saunders running to raise money
Louis Saunders running to raise money
Louis Saunders running to raise money

Please support him - and us! - by clicking through to his fundraising page

The Balsam Video

The video about The Centre that saw the film crew pop in to our groups is now finished! It will allow anyone who is thinking about donating to the Centre to see what we do and hear the beneficiaries talk about what The Balsam Centre means to them. See the video here.

As Seen on TV.....

With Sport Relief in full swing to raise money for charities like ours, our Maternal Mental Health project has been in the news as one of the projects that Comic Relief funded last year. (Comic Relief and Sport Relief run alternate years). Kelly and some of the mums have been interviewed on the radio and tv recently to talk about the project and what it has meant to mums taking part. Now we are being featured in a tv programme following Annie Price as she prepares to have a baby.

Annie found out her mum had experienced postnatal depression and Annie was worried that she too might experience it after her baby was born. So she came along to find out more.

You can see the whole programme by clicking on this link.


Viridor Funding

The Balsam Windows

The Balsam Centre has new windows - thanks to Veridor Credits!

Our previous windows were 30 or so years old and were well and truly showing their age, with serious condensation between the panes. My favourite window was the one in the office that gave the ghostly wail when the wind blew....

Replacing all the windows is an expensive job - enter Viridor Credits to the rescue! We now have silent, draught-free, double glazed windows - this is going to make such a difference, especially in the winter. To the groups that use the Veronica Room - you can now see out of the windows!!

Viridor Credits mission is "to make a positive difference to local communities by providing funding opportunities for projects from the Landfill Communities Fund", which they have certainly achieved here, and we would like to thank them too for all their support during the funding process.

Viridor Funding

Nick Berry from Viridor Credits visits the Memory Group to see the new windows in the Veronica Room


We have signed up to be a part of Give As You Live where you can raise money for us - just by shopping online in your normal way! All you have to do is click on the link, choose your charity - The Balsam Centre - and then create an account. To find out more information, go to our Funding page

Sponsored Hikes, Marathons and Company Volunteering

Would your company be interested in volunteering with us for the day? In the past, we have had various companies lend us their employees for the day, like Emily Sheaf from Enterprise Car Hire, spending the day helping people to get online and use their tablets or smartphones. Spark came to volunteer for us, running the Loose Ends Cafe one Tuesday - delicious chilli! And Wincanton Racecourse came to treat the Art Shed but during Covid also encouraged their furloughed staff to come and help in the community, delivering shopping and prescriptions.

Volunteering is a great way for your team to get out together and get involved in the community - and it's fun!

Robert Frith Opticians completed a sponsored walk for us, raising a fantastic £500 for the Mens Shed Project and our own volunteer, Berry Bernsen, ran the London Marathon for us. If you might be interested in a sponsored walk, we can even help you plan and reccy the walk with our own volunteers.

company volunteering

Emily Sheaf from Enterprise Car Hire in the IT Drop-in

If you are interested in company volunteering or taking on a team fundraising challenge - or if you have any other ideas - talk to us, 01963 31842.

Previous News....

Christmas was very different for all of us in 2020, but for some families it was harder than usual.

Job losses and family break-ups rose dramatically in 2020, making Christmas particularly difficult for many.

We put a call-out for donations of treats and gifts for families - and were OVERWHELMED by the response! People brought in chocolates and biscuites galore, knitted hats and mittens, home-made sachets of hot chocolate resembling reindeer, got crafty with decopage, and donated many toys and books. In all, we wrapped 207 presents for children and their parents, and delivered parcels to 62 families. BIG thanks go to Sue Shelbourn-Barrow and the Wincanton Town Council for providing food hampers for the families as well as suppliing the Live@HomeScheme and the Churches. Thank you too, to South Barrow, Charlton Musgrove, Cucklington and Stoke Trister communities who donated goods to Nickie Gething for us, and all the local businesses that got involved. What a great community we live in!

Thank you to our volunteers Suki, Nicky, Lu, Michelle, Janice, Vicky and Maymie for wrapping and delivering the parcels!

Christmas Donations
Christmas Donations
Christmas Donations
Christmas Donations

Winter Fair

The Winter Fair 2019- another resounding success!

This amazing feast of trash and treasure raises another £13,000 for The Balsam Centre

The wonderful Winter Fair committee have once again pulled off an incredible feat, raising £13,000 in three and a half hours. They collected all manner of goods over the year, blitzed the town and area with flyers and posters, and moved the fair to its new location at the Wincanton Racecourse. Despite the slight trepidation about the move to a new location after so many years in the Memorial Hall, and the biblical rain during set up, the fair ran very smoothly. There was plenty of parking for everyone, and the CATbus ran people up and down from the town.

A team of volunteers from The Balsam Centre joined forces with the Winter Fair team to help in the cafe (thank you Pam, Lynn C, Lynn S, and Debbie), and get the clothes, mirrors, kitchenware, cakes, bottles, gifts and plants from cars to the marquee - and whatever was leftover back into cars again (thank you to Chris, Richard, Edward, and Tony). Thank you too, to Paris, Claire and Jazz for running The Balsam stand, displaying the craft made by users of the groups. The Men's Shed were there too, selling their chopping boards and beautifully turned bowls to raise money for The Mens Shed.

In addition to the £13,000 raised directly from the fair, the fair secured a further £10,000 donation from a foundation!

A BIG thank you to the group that organise and run this wonderful fair, for all their hard work over the year and on the day!

Rotary Club

Rotary Club

And a Big THANK YOU too, to The Rotary Club. Their fundraiser, Classic & Supercars, as it raised £61,000 for charities - including £3000 for The Balsam Centre

At Sherborne Castle on Friday 8th November a total of £61,000 was distributed to one national and 18 local charities resulting from the profits of the Rotary Classic and Supercar Show.

Nigel Young, Chairman of Trustees for the Sherborne Classic Cars CIO, said ‘This was a truly astonishing result following 12 months of work by the Organising Committee from members of the Yeo Vale, Sherborne Castles and Brue Valley Rotary Clubs. They are to be congratulated on raising this fantastic sum of money which means a total of £232,000 has been distributed over the past six years.’

The Classic and Supercar Show in 2020 is on Sunday 19th July where the Marque Feature will be Bentley kindly sponsored by Bentley Hampshire, Harwoods Group.

For more information please contact- The Show Secretary: e mail: Tel: 07769 114211

savour the
                flavour event

Savour the Flavour Event in Wincanton

It was wonderful to see so many people out and about in Wincanton on Saturday, getting involved in the Savour the Flavour event. The Balsam Centre provided the venue for the Cakes Competition, sold their homemade "Bottom of the Fridge Soup" and fresh bread, and displayed a range of "mood food" - food that will naturally make you feel good.

Best Bake over

Ella wins Best Bake for Over 11's with her amazing house and garden cake!

                cake decorating under 11's

Emma won Best Cake Decoration, Under 11's, for her lovely sheep eating grass and relaxing!

Best-bake under

Mia won Best-Bake Under 11's for her beautifully decorated muffins, with edible silver and gold leaf.

Bottom-of-the-Fridge Soup

Everyone has a fridge drawer that at some point contains a few bendy carrots, two sticks of celery, and other oddments that didn't quite fit in to what they were cooking. Maggie, our wonderful volunteer who runs our Loose Ends Cafe, has the perfect soup recipe to use them all up

Morrisons, not wanting to waste food which has past its sell by date but still good to cook with, have been giving The Balsam Centre their fruit and veg for the Loose Ends Cafe, and this week donated this food for the soup. Maggie came up with three delicious recipes, the Basic Soup, Basic + Tomatoes, and Basic + Coriander and Lemon, which we sold with lovely hunks of Lovington Bakery's Sourdough Bread.

Jackie, from Morrisons, came up to join us for the day and helped Maggie set up, serve and clear away - thank you, Jackie! And thank you Morrisons, for all the vegetables you have provided for the both this event and the cafe!

Jackie and
                Maggie serving soup

Fridge vegetable drawer

Take the contents from the bottom of the fridge

chopped root vegetables

Chop the root vegetables and place them in a baking tray with 1 tbsp oil and 1 tsp salt. Roast at 180 C for 20 minutes

other chopped

Mix in the other chopped vegetables and continue roasting for 30 minutes at the same temperature

Roasted Vegetables

Once roasted, place the vegetables in a blender with some water, and whizz until smooth

You can download the Basic recipe. Add tinned tomatoes and less water if you want the tomato version, or add coriander and lemon at the blending stage if you want the citrus version. You can add anything you like - and you can use coconut oil instead of of vegetable oil too.


Thank you, Morrisons, for supporting us with this event, and for all the vegetables you have given us for our weekly cafe - plus the fruit for the Craft and Play Family Group!

BBC Somerset Visits The Men's Shed

                Somerset visits the Shed

Charlie Taylor for BBC Somerset came to visit the "shedders" last week, to interview them and Sue Place for his evening radio programme.

If you would like to hear the interview go to BBC Somerset Sounds. You can move the slider to start 22 minutes into the show to hear the start of the interview.

Charlie now has his name down on the Shedders Tea/Coffee board, along with the Countess of Wessex, so we hope he'll pop in again to visit some of the other activities we have here at the Centre!


Supporting Families

Kelly and Baby
                Basics South Somerset

Our Family Worker, Kelly, had a road trip to the Baby Basics headquarters in Ilminster to collect this beautiful mosses basket hamper for one of the families that we support here at the Balsam Centre. Lisa at Baby Basics is providing an amazing service to families in need of baby supplies and we were lucky to be able to work with them to provide much needed support. The kindness and effort put into each basket is amazing. Thank you Baby Basics South Somerset

Baby Basics South
                Somerset Moses Basket

Visit to the Balsam Centre of HRH The Countess of Wessex on 1st November 2017

The Countess of Wessex
Photographs: Oscar Yoosefinejad

The Balsam Centre welcomed Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex to the Centre in November, with children from both Conkers and Balsam Nursery to greet her as she arrived.

Her Royal Highness had a tour of the Centre, meeting beneficiaries, staff, volunteers and trustees, and dropped in on a number of the different social, therapeutic and support groups and activities taking place that day. In every group and activity, The Countess of Wessex stopped and chatted to people, playing with the children in the Balsam Multiples group, and helping the IT learners to download apps. Everyone enjoyed meeting her!

The Countess of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex

Following her tour, we had the official launch of the Well Wessex group of charities. The four established charities working together to improve mental health in Somerset are: The Balsam Centre, Creativity Works, Heads Up! and Chard Watch. Each charity has its own individual approach and all include use of peer support to assist in recovery and maintenance of good mental health and wellbeing. The charities have been developing a new and effective model to meet the many challenges and changes currently taking place in the field of mental health.

WW1 Project

World War 1 Heritage Project

Led by artist Sophie Bellars, the community came together to create a series of mixed media artworks to commemorate the men and women who fought in WW1, involving students from Wincanton Primary School and King Arthur's Community School, along with residents of Carrington House, the Guides and Wincanton Youth Club. Wincanton Museum and History Society and the Library brought together documents and artefacts from the period.

The event culminated on the 5th July with historical exhibitions at the Library and Museum and with the artwork on display at The Balsam Centre where we were joined by the Chapel Cross Tearoom Choir who sang songs from the period.


The sketchbooks of Constance Bailward

During WW1, a local young woman, Constance Bailward, was a nurse in the hospital installed at the Priory. She filled a sketchbook full of drawings and verse, describing daily life at the hospital. This fantastic historical resource was one of the central pieces of the event, and inspired the drama created by the students from King Arthur's school.

Carrington House Residents

Women from Carrington House worked with Sophie to create a roll-call of those from the community who lost their lives in WW1, embroidering the names and regimental insignia to create a large patchwork blanket. It was an opportunity for women to come together and talk about how they learnt and used their sewing skills over their lifetimes.

Carrington Resident
The Guides

The Guides

The 2nd Wincanton Guides took their inspiration from WW1 weapons. The Museum lent them some original weapons from the war, allowing the Guides to get a sense of what it might be like to be in the midst of war.

Starting with their initial reactions to the weapons, Sophie worked with the Guides to paint and print onto fabric, and the Guides then sewed the pieces together to recreate the missiles in the form of soft sculptures.

Wincanton Primary School and King Arthur's Community School

Year 5 pupils from the primary school collaborated with year 7 and 8 pupils from King Arthur's to study the stain glass windows in St Peter's and St Paul's Church. One of the windows depicts St George and was paid for by a local family to commemorate their son who was killed at the Somme - St George's face might be that of Lance Corporal Cash. The pupils designed and painted their own stained glass windows to put up in the Balsam Centre for the WW1 Heritage exhibition.

Primary students
The Youth Club

Wincanton Youth Club

Sophie joined with members of the Youth Club to look at the story of a local lad, Harry Hamblin who lived on West Hill and was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

After joining the Reserves, Harry was drafted into a Navy battalion and sent to the front. After recovering from an initial injury, he was sent back to the front where he was killed. Using a photograph of Harry in uniform, the club told his story through a series of images and text to create a time-line of the events that led up to his death.

King Arthur's Community School Drama

Susan Huggins, Drama Director and co-creator of The Ministry of Play and Director of The Octagon Theatre Company, Yeovil, worked with Year 9 Drama students to create a work inspired by Nurse Bailward’s sketchbook which was performed in the gardens at the Balsam Centre as part of the Sketches of Wartime Wincanton.

Primary students

It was an inspiring day, clearly reminding us of the effect the war had on this one small community, encouraging people to tell their own stories and the impact the war had on their own families.

Many thanks to Sophie Bellars for developing this great project and for inspiring so many others to take part! Thanks, too, to all those that took part, and those that supported it in so many ways.

Support Us!

The Balsam Centre is an independent charity set up by local people for local people.

Whilst the work of the Centre is long term, funding for its projects and services is all too frequently short term.

It is largely thanks to help from a fund created by a legacy left by one person, that the Balsam Centre has been able to continue its mental health work over the last few years. The help that this has given hundreds of people is a permanent and living memorial to that person’s generosity.

If you are thinking of donating, have you considered becoming a Friend of the Balsam Centre? This is a commitment to regular giving of any amount, at any interval, by standing order, and even better, if you are a UK tax payer and you ‘tick’ to say so, we can claim another 25% on top of your donation to support the work of the Centre. Become a Friend here!


Give As You Live

We have signed up to be a part of Give As You Live where you can raise money for us - just by shopping online in your normal way! All you have to do is click on the link, choose your charity - The Balsam Centre - and then create an account.

The site will ask for your name, email address and a password. You can choose your favourite shops, or just use their search bar to find the product you are looking for. When you buy in this way, the retailer will donate an amount to us, and you can see exactly what you have donated. This is a great way for people who would like to support us to do so whilst doing their normal online shopping! All the big retailers are there, Amazon, Ebay, supermarkets, and department stores. Happy Shopping! And thank you for supporting us!!

We now have a Virgin Giving charity page where you can donate directly, and Virgin will collect the tax for us! Just click on the button below.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving