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Another Wonderful Winter Fair!

The annual Winter Fair took place at Wincanton Racecourse on Saturday 18 November, raising an incredible £20,500 on the day! All proceeds are given to The Balsam Centre, directly supporting our local community, making this the biggest fundraising event in our calendar.

The Fair would not happen without the energy and commitment of an incredible band of volunteers, who work tirelessly for months to bring it all together. During the course of the year, they gather donations from far and wide, and then curate them into different stalls, including jewellery, gifts, handbags, plants, deli, toy stall, kitchenware, trash and treasure, pictures, tombola, café, raffle and the ever-popular preloved clothing, a real honeypot for fans of vintage fashion. Almost everything sold on the day has been handmade, upcycled or repurposed, and the volunteers are justifiably proud of this sustainable approach. We can’t thank them enough for all that they do.

If you missed it, you definitely missed out but the Fair will be back next year!

Winter Fair

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

ELEMENTS: Wincanton's Climate Fair

The Balsam Centre hosted Wincanton’s first climate fair on Saturday 27 May. Organised by Good Stuff project worker James Remington, the fair took as its starting point the belief that, through community action, we can all do our bit to address the climate emergency. A range of local groups and businesses with an interest in the environment and sustainability came together for the event, including One Planet Wincanton, Carymoor Environmental Trust, Bootmakers and Green & Healthy Future Frome.

The desire amongst our local community to engage with sustainability issues was one of the strongest messages to come through from the Good Stuff consultations, and it is hoped that this will become a regular event in Wincanton’s calendar.

climate fair collage

The Good Stuff Project - An Exciting New Project Funded By The Lottery!

The Balsam Centre is working on a new project in Wincanton funded by the lottery Community Fund called ‘Good Stuff’. It’s aims are to build a greater sense of community, bring people together and give opportunities to do new things and develop new skills at no or low cost as many are going through difficult times. We want to work with local people to understand what is most important to residents and develop a joint community vision. We would love to hear from you to understand what Good Stuff you would like to see happening in Wincanton. We have created a survey to find out what the community would like to see offered and you can access and complete it here.

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....

Here are some of the other one-off events we've undertaken with your support, the activities that our supporters have carried out to fundraise for us over the last few years, and some of the visitors we've had....

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

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

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: classicandsupercars@gmail.com Tel: 07769 114211 www.classic-supercars.co.uk

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.

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.

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!!


Donating via Wonderful.org

We have a Wonderful.org charity page where you can donate directly to The Balsam Centre, and Wonderful will collect the tax for us! Just click on the logo and you will be taken to the page for donations to Wincanton Community Venture, the official name for The Balsam Centre charity.

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. A legacy to the Balsam Centre is also one of the simplest ways that you can help the practical work of the Centre.