TEN county community projects are celebrating Christmas early after being awarded almost £200,000 in National Lottery funding.

The projects range from gardening sessions to village hall improvements with organisations large and small and as widespread as Upper Sapey, Ross-on-Wye and Hereford set to benefit.

The biggest grant, of more than £104,000, goes to support an extension and refurbishment project at Much Birch Community Hall.

Other village halls, at Upper Sapey, Kingsland and Dorstone will each be receiving £10,000.

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust will use its £10,000 grant to bring people together in Ross-on-Wye to improve public footpaths, green spaces and wildlife in the local area.

Various events and activities will be organised, resulting in a Hedgehog Festival in September next year. This will involve schools teaching children about local wildlife and how to survey natural spaces. ‘Community Nature Days’ will also be held with toddler groups in care homes, bringing different generations together to create a wildflower garden and learn about nature.

Almost £10,000 will be used by city-based Herefordshire Growing Point to provide gardening sessions for a range of people such as those with dementia or Autism or people who are disabled or elderly, as well as children with special needs.

The group's fundraiser Kate Bishop said: “This is very welcome news and will make a real difference to the 250 people we currently support.

"Thanks to National Lottery players, we will be able to extend our sessions into the Easter and summer holidays, so there are even more activities which help reduce isolation and teach people new skills.

"We will also now be able to work with more elderly people from care homes, providing them with the opportunity to enjoy being outdoors and take part in gentle exercise while gardening, helping them connect to past memories of their own gardens.”

The money is being distributed by the Big Lottery Fund.

Matt Poole, senior head of regional funding for the Midlands at the Big Lottery Fund, said: “All over the country, National Lottery money is being used by people who are taking the lead in developing great ideas to help their communities thrive.

"They know and understand the needs of their area better than anyone else and are best-placed to develop projects to tackle them. Herefordshire Growing Point is a brilliant example of this and, thanks to National Lottery players, we are proud to be able to support them to change lives for the better.”

Madley Parish Council will be given assistance to install outdoor play equipment while the Big Skill will be able to run workshops for people with complex learning disabilities.

Cultivating Learning and Nature will be able to stage a series of craft activities to improve young people’s mental wellbeing while, at the other end of the age scale, Kingsland Parochial Church Council will fund coffee mornings to combat loneliness in the elderly.