In 2013, the Big Lottery Fund handed lead partner, the Broughton Trust, £1million for a scheme with the unappetising title, Irwell Valley Sustainable Communities project, or IVSC.
The idea was to use the money to help the communities around the Salford stretch of the River Irwell connect with the environment through things like recycling, greening areas, and growing plants and food, energy efficiency and enhancing the river.
While the 51 projects were centred on communities right next to the river, in Lower Broughton, Lower Kersal, Charlestown and Blackfriars, schemes spread out to Higher Broughton and Kersal, with hundreds of people involved and groups able to apply for grants between £500 and £10,000.
Organisers were under no illusions about the difficulties involved... "The point of it was to get people to be more sustainable, like growing their own food and budgeting" Project Manager Diane Crowcroft explains "But you can't come into a community on a white charger thinking you can change opinions; you can't because, for a lot of these people it's heat or eat. There's fuel poverty, food poverty and all those sorts of things."
The project sought to positivity influence such issues and the end of term report is a warts and all assessment of what happened. Some things worked spectacularly, particularly with youngsters and the elderly involved in planting, growing and environmental awareness, while other things fell flat, with some workshops and events registering poor attendance and outcomes.
One of the successes was an Invasive Species project designed to rid the river banks of the dangerous giant hogweed plant which burns the skin of anyone who comes into contact with its leaves.
Fed up with lack of action from the Environment Agency and Salford Council, the Salford Friendly Anglers – later Mersey Basin Rivers Trust - trained up five volunteers to obtain a licence to spray the plants themselves and eventually got paid contracts from the authorities to the tune of around £30,000 to carry out the work, via a new trading arm, Northern Invasive.
On Boxing Day 2015, shortly after the United Nations had declared IVSC a 'Champion of Disaster Risk Reduction', people in Lower Broughton became only too aware of the River Irwell, as it burst its banks and ended up flooding their houses.
Since then, the project has been working with authorities to help alleviate future issues, with twenty volunteer buddies who meet up with vulnerable people during extremes of weather conditions...
"Our Community Emergency Plan is one of the best things to come out of this" says Diane "We are part of the Strategic Flood Forum, and have our own plan which works with the Council's. We took part in Exercise Triton II, which mocked up a flood to activate our plan. Our volunteers went and evacuated people."
IVSC has also been involved with the new second flood basin and wetlands around Castle Irwell, steering the designs for the stunning area, and making sure there was community involvement and subsequent community use.
Meanwhile, IVSC has been involved with environmentally educating an array of groups in the community, from 'Inner City Lifesaving and Open Water Awareness', to 'Green Pea Up-cycling Workshops', to 'Practical Be-keeping and Gardening'...
There have been orchards and edible food planted in around twenty locations – from Abbott Lodge to Lower Kersal Primary School; and other schemes, from solar panel installations at the Broughton Trust, to films about the Irwell and Peel Park...
"We've done all sorts" says Diane.
But has it worked? "I think so" she replies "It's been really successful. The project has ended but hopefully there will be long term benefits for the community..."
For further details see the Irwell Valley Sustainable Communities website – click here