A Short GRASS History

The Gordon Road Area Street Scheme (GRASS) was launched in 2003 by long term Cliftonville residents Betty Ward and her son, Tony. Here they tell us why they moved here and why they decided to launch the community group all those years ago. 

From pounding the streets delivering leaflets to toiling away removing thistles from the Gordon Road garden, Betty and Tony have made a positive difference to our neighbourhood by encouraging pride and promoting community cohesion. 

The Original GRASS committee at the Gordon Road Community Garden

Betty says that while the nineties and noughties brought greater deprivation through neglect, their love and passion for Cliftonville always remained, so they sought to make a difference, despite challenging circumstances. She said: “We moved to the area in 1999 after my husband died as we have family here. We are originally from Birmingham but have been visiting Cliftonville since the 1950s. Both my sisters were married here and we used to take the children on holiday, I remember the beach (Cliftonville) being packed and the tea kiosk.” 

Due to a number of anti-social problems they decided to form GRASS to improve communication between residents and the authorities. This included the police and Thanet council. “We thought it would be a good idea to start the group as at the time there were quite a few problems with anti-social behaviour and fly tipping. We received a lottery grant and help from the council.” explained Betty. 

They also worked on the road’s central garden with businesses giving their time and plants for free. The council funded several palm trees and these were eventually replaced with crab apples. 

Tony spent hours removing thistles that dug their way around the plants, and some of the original flowers still come into bloom every year. 

GRASS Events 

GRASS with the help of Betty and Tony started two important events that continue to this day. Here Betty explains how they were started. 

Cliftonville in Bloom 

“This started in around 2007 as a way of brightening up the streets but to also deter people from dumping their rubbish in front gardens. We received help from local businesses and Tony and I would post flyers -Tony would even post a thank you letter to those who hadn’t entered but had a nice pot outside or hanging basket. It instilled pride within the community.” 

Children’s Christmas Party 

“The parties have been going for as long as GRASS has. We used to hold them in the community hall and received donations of presents which we wrapped for the children. We also provided food.” Betty and Tony continue to be integral to the GRASS committee but both are taking a back seat role after 17 years at the helm and receiving a mayoral award for services to the community. Well deserved!