TV presenter and bushcraft expert Ray Mears has hailed the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group’s Community Fund “a force for good” this week, after visiting several island beneficiaries.

It comes as the Steamship Group announced it will be giving away another £30,000 to lucky community groups across Cornwall this year, with a top award of £10,000.

The Community Fund, which has already given away £30,000 to worthwhile causes and local projects, is now open for applications from groups in Mid and West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

On a recent visit to the islands, Ray, Patron of the Steamship Group for 2018, visited projects supported by the Community Fund on St Martins, St Agnes and St Marys.

He said: “One of the real highlights of my visit to Scilly was the opportunity I had to meet islanders and see first -hand what these grants which the Steamship Group has given out can mean to small, rural groups, many of which often struggle for funding and support. Even small sums can transform lives, especially on an island community like Scilly.

“Some of these projects need a push over the finish line, others need somebody to believe in them and get them started. I was really impressed with the projects themselves, and the great variety of community work and nature initiatives they encompassed. I can’t praise the Community Fund highly enough, it’s a fantastic scheme giving back to the islands.”

The Community Fund was first launched in 2016 and is part of an estimated £1 million that the Steamship Group returns to the community every year through subsidised travel for islanders, NHS flights, sponsorships and charitable donations.

Entries are now being accepted for the first round of funding in this financial year, with a deadline for entries set as August 13.

Sharon Sandercock, Marketing and Communications Manager for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, said: “We are delighted to have another £30,000 to give away this year, money which goes directly to the local community and makes a genuine, tangible difference.

“We are looking for exciting, original and innovative projects to apply to the Community Fund. The success of the fund so far has been remarkable and we supported some truly worthwhile causes.

“The Steamship Group returns around £1 million a year to the communities it serves and we look forward to supporting many more projects on the islands and mainland.”

The fund has four funding grant categories including an award of up to £10,000 for one project. The other categories are:

  • Two projects up to £5,000
  • Two projects up to £2,500
  • Four projects up to £1,250

The Community Fund has so far awarded £30,000 to 31 different projects ranging from a set of new judo mats for a club on St Marys, to a life-saving defibrillator for the Ronnie Richards Memorial Charity in Penzance.

Bids to the Community Fund are open to voluntary groups or charities, schools and education establishments, community clubs or societies, and individuals undertaking not-for-profit projects for the benefit of the wider community.

Projects include:

  • £3,000 towards a vital piece of safety equipment installed to watch over popular Priest Cove, near St Just in West Cornwall. The CCTV camera was bought by NCI Cape Cornwall to look into a blind spot behind the watch station. The state-of-the-art camera, which relays pictures back to the station, has been hailed a “vital piece of equipment” which can see all the way to Sennen. It has been discreetly placed high on the cliffs on the southern side of Cape Cornwall.
  • £1,500 towards a creative literacy project working with children on the Isles of Scilly, Mousehole, Newlyn and Penzance, taking the history of Royal Mail Ships as inspiration. Poetry postie Sally Crabtree held workshops with pupils at Five Islands School on St Mary’s to show that poetry can be fun and doesn’t have to be boring. She then turned the children’s poetry into postcards, which she delivered at the Sea Salts and Sail Festival in Mousehole and, ultimately, to celebrate the UN’s World Post Day. The Poetry Postie character was first commissioned by the Postal Heritage Museum and Archive and has since performed at festival and events all over the country – from small village fetes to large music festivals such as Womad.
  • £650 to support a Scilly family who cycled unsupported from John O’Groats to Land’s End in July 2016 – despite only having five miles of island road to practice on. Julian and Michelle Morel and their sons Finley, 13, and Shea, 11, planned the journey to raise awareness and money for the Alzheimer’s Society and support the memory café on the islands. The family used the money to pay for all their travel expenses and said they wouldn’t have been able to embark on the ambitious 847-mile bike ride without it.
  • A donation of £1,500 to Brownies and Guides on the Isles of Scilly, who went camping together for the first time in August 2016 thanks to the arrival of a huge marquee paid for by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company. Thirty girls from the 1st Isles of Scilly Brownies and Guides camped at Sandybanks Farm on St Mary’s, where the 18mx6m marquee was used as the kitchen, dining and craft area.

Full details, eligibility criteria and application forms are now available from the Steamship Group’s website. All projects are judged by members of an independent panel.