Rowhedge builds 'community' by giving their things away

Karen Taylor
Image caption Karen Taylor says her 'free tables' idea has led to villagers speaking and sharing with people they otherwise might not have met

A village has found a novel way of bringing the community together and recycling unwanted goods by giving away items for free.

The once-monthly "free table days" in Rowhedge, near Colchester, see people put unwanted items outside their homes.

Fellow villagers then roam the streets, speak with one another and pick up any items they fancy.

Founder Karen Taylor said: "They get to talk, meet and share with people, and the community builds."

Image copyright Karen Taylor
Image caption Villagers are given a list of free table locations and are encouraged to tour the spots and mingle with fellow pickers

The idea, said Mrs Taylor, came from something she once saw while living years ago in Germany.

'It was crazy'

"Every month they used to just put stuff outside their houses if they didn't want it and people would come around, and people were furnishing whole houses like this and very little actually went in the bin.

"I thought I would give it a go this year and see what happens," said Mrs Taylor, whose garden hosts one of just a handful of "mailbox libraries" in the UK.

"And people said it sounded good and wanted to join in. And people were doing it.

"We went around the village and people were walking with people and chatting in the street seeing what others had collected in their bags.

"It was so simple it was crazy."

Image caption Mrs Taylor's garden is also home to a 'mailbox library'

The second free table event - held this month - saw numerous people in 12 streets taking part.

Items given range from collected plastic bottle tops taken for nursery schools to books to ornaments and bread makers. In one case, a resident took the "free table day" literally and put out a table.

One message left for a "giver" was from a young girl thanking them for all her new books and toys.

Mrs Taylor said one surprising aspect of the scheme has been that table visitors were not just taking items but often putting new items back on the tables.

Image copyright Karen Taylor
Image caption Villagers offered up a range of different items for people to take

"When you come back to your table it is not just seeing what has gone but what has been added," she said.

However, it is totally the wrong day to be selling things outside your house.

"If you put your bike out with a £20 sign on it, it's not going to happen," Mrs Taylor said.

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