Friday, 20 October 2017

Plant sellers quit after theft

TWO women who have been selling plants for charity for almost 40 years have quit after about 20 pots were stolen

TWO women who have been selling plants for charity for almost 40 years have quit after about 20 pots were stolen.

Patricia Turner and Teresa Eltham had been leaving the plants in a wheelbarrow outside St John’s Church, in Whitchurch Hill, every Saturday and Sunday for people to buy.

They had raised tens of thousands of pounds for causes, including the church, parish hall, Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed and Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust.

But about £25 worth of plants were stolen in successive weekends this month and now the pair have decided to call it a day.

Ms Turner, 85, said: “I was very cross and we immediately said, ‘Right that’s the end, we don’t need it anymore’.

“We haven’t done it since and have got rid of quite a few of the plants, giving them away or throwing them out.

Ms Turner first started selling the plants in 1977 to help raise money for a village fete to celebrate the Queen’s silver jubilee. They continued for several years before taking a break but restarted in 1988 with Ms Eltham, 73, and two friends.

Between 1988 and 1998, they raised £5,500 from the plant sales to spend on refurbishing rooms in the church.

Their fund-raising also contributed to a mower, new gowns for the choir, hedge cutting, a notice board and a strimmer at the church.

Every weekend, as well as Bank Holidays, the plants were potted up and put on the side of the B471 for passers-by to purchase for between 50p and £2.

The garden trolley was chained to a fence and included a drawer for buyers to put their money in. It was wheeled back indoors each night.

Ms Turner, who has lived in the village for 62 years, said: “Whatever we had grown ourselves or people had given us we would sell. We grew the seeds and got the plants and then potted them up. A lot of time goes into it. We would have between 20 and 50 on sale depending on size and there was nothing dearer than £2. People would just serve themselves and hopefully be honest.”

There had been a number of odd thefts over the years and the pair had been considering retiring because it was becoming too much effort.

Their minds were made up after the two most recent thefts. On Sunday, September 1, £5 worth of plants were stolen from the trolley and the following weekend about £20 worth were taken.

Ms Turner, a grandmother-of-four who lives near the church, noticed a metallic blue car parked next to the trolley and a man aged about 50 putting the entire stock of plants in his boot. She walked towards him to make herself visible but he got in the car and sped off.

“There was someone in the passenger side of the car,” she said. I walked towards him so I could be seen but the next thing I knew he was in the car and went off.

Ms Eltham, a grandmother-of-three of Hill Bottom, called the theft “pathetic”.

Ms Turner said it was a “sad” time for the charities that had benefited from their work over the years.

“We raised a lot of money and I’m quite proud of it. I’ve always done gardening but we will not be growing any for the stall anymore.

“We had been debating finishing for a long time because it gets hard work but this finished it completely.”

She said a few weeks previously she had received a note through her door from a couple called Steve and Carol who had said they had recently bought their first home and the four plants they had bought would be the first to go in their garden.

Ms Turner said: “That was so nice to read and we were so chuffed but a few weeks later they had all been pinched.”

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