Two friends celebrated their ‘beautiful community’ by holding a photo competition to raise funds for local church repairs.

Susan Nims, 74, and Olivia Wooster, 29, are both long-term residents of Bradenham, a picturesque village near High Wycombe, but that’s not all they have in common.

Around a year ago, the two took notice of a growing sense of disconnection in the community, and they have been on a mission ever since to reignite that idyllic neighbourly warmth that once defined such small clusters of residents.

In the autumn of 2022, Susan and Olivia began holding community quiz nights, the success of which led to a photo competition, announced this summer with an award ceremony held at the village’s cricket pavilion last month, where residents were asked to capture the area through their own eyes.

Susan, a former events organiser who is now retired, said she and Olivia connected on a “mother and daughter” level, adding that because of her professional background, it has “always been in me to want to bring people together”.

The photo competition, the 25 entries of which have now been compiled into a calendar, with profits going towards church clock repairs, was a “wonderful” success, according to Susan, and a heart-warming indication that the two women’s effort to bring together neighbours in the village had quickly taken shape.

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She said: “The calendar is beautiful – it makes me feel so proud of the village. I’m thrilled to bits with how everyone has come together.

“It didn’t used to be like this – we call ourselves a village but we’re really like a hamlet. We don’t have a school or a shop, just the beautiful church and manor and a fantastic cricket pavilion.

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“But no one seemed to really know each other and I kept thinking, ‘This is wrong, it’s not how it should be’. It’s a fantastic community now – if someone’s cat goes missing, we’re all out looking!”

Olivia, who has lived in Bradenham all her life, added that when she was younger, her parents knew everyone in the village, and she felt spurred to action when she realised the extent to which that communal spirit had dissipated over the years, due in part to resident turnover.

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“After I got talking with Susan, I started thinking how nice it would be to revamp that community sense. We’re all a lot more close-knit now and it’s like how it used to be.

“We’re so pleased with the outcome of the photo competition, and it was really interesting, too, to see how differently people interpreted the spirit of Bradenham."

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The winner of the photo competition was Andrew Hutton for his snap of a rainbow over the village church. Fred Newton came in second place for his photo of walkers at golden hour and Lynne Savage-Jones’s photo of a Glis Glis pinching nuts, titled ‘Caught in the Act’ was awarded joint third place with Zoe Cain’s photo of Bradenham Manor.

While she’s not sure how much money will be raised towards the church through calendar sales, Susan said she is delighted simply to have created something positive within her local community.

“The world is such an awful place at the moment – just to see people with smiles on their faces is a joy amid all the doom and gloom.”