Sally Themans went to meet a Broseley lady who, amongst many other things, is a volunteer driver for the thriving Much Wenlock and Broseley Community Bus, is secretary of the Broseley History Society and runs a cinema club.
A chat with Janet Robinson is like opening a window on to Broseley. Janet’s enthusiasm, involvement and commitment towards her adopted town is infectious.
Originally hailing from the south east, Janet and her husband came to the area 40 years ago to set up home and take posts as teachers in the newly established ‘new town’ of Telford. Now retired from her primary school post, and despite her self deprecating claim that ‘I retired when I could no longer get up from the floor as quickly as the children’ Janet is as fit as a fiddle and delights in running around after others with eye watering energy.
The first area of involvement, and what had led me to come and meet Janet, was her role with, and the tenth anniversary of, the ‘Friendly Bus’. Janet explained: “It’s a community bus serving the people of Much Wenlock and Broseley and provides transport primarily for those who wouldn’t find it easy to access public transport. That said, it is accessible to all within the community, and serves all ages, school trips, OAPs, after school clubs and we are currently transporting a group of young people with special needs to the Wyldewood Centre so they can attend special courses over the summer.”
Founded 10 years ago with one bus, the scheme now has three which are in constant use. The driving force behind the scheme is Liz Mars and Janet was delighted that her work has been appropriately recognised as she has been named ‘Broseley Citizen of the Year’. “There are about 50 volunteer drivers – that’s a lot of CRB checks – and a lot of logistics, and all drivers undertake the MIDAS test, which is a test of awareness and suitability for minibus drivers.”
Janet helps on the committee and is also one of the volunteer drivers. “When I was a girl I used to dream of driving a double decker bus, I have to suffice with a 16 seater but I absolutely love it!” And her favourite group? “Ah, I enjoy all the groups but one that stands out is a sparkly community of ladies from Much Wenlock whom I take shopping every week, they just make me laugh, they are really good company and they brighten me up!”
So when she is not a bus driver, there is are plenty of other things Janet has thrown herself into. She is chairman of the Broseley Cinema group, which shows a free film once a month at the Birchmeadow Centre to which anyone is welcome to attend and she is also membership secretary of the Broseley History Society which has more than 200 members.
The society meets once a month at the Broseley social club and Janet obviously has a keen interest in local history. “The purpose of the society is to explore the history of Broseley, and it’s a rich history too – the population used to be much larger, there were ironworks, mines, brickworks, the pollution must have been awful!”
It’s a far cry from the leafy town that Broseley is today, which Janet’s home looks out on to with the church tower and the local primary school in the foreground. “There’s more to Broseley than you initially think,” comments Janet. “There’s a strong sense of community with lots going on.”
Janet’s most personal work is as a member of the ecumenical Churches Together Group, visiting local schools to deliver the ‘Open the Book’ programme which shares bible stories with young children. Janet has strong convictions about this. “The messages and stories in the bible underpin our society, our laws and moral codes – I’m not evangelical but I do care that children have a chance to hear these messages”.
Janet clearly likes meeting people, she is welcoming and joyful but unassuming too, questioning if I really had the right person? And yes I did, I really did. Our local heroes are just that, everyday people who give their time and their energy to local life. And here is an energetic, friendly person who is doing just that and servicing her community with pride.
The Much Wenlock and Broseley Community Bus can be contacted on 01952 881145. The office is manned from 9am to 1pm every day.