30 volunteers spent over 400 hours between July and September 2016 transforming a neglected piece of land from an eyesore to a community garden. The space is leased for an “apple pie rent”.
It has become a space used for a variety of events by all ages. Teenagers often sit and talk, people bring fish and chips or pasties, some just sit and watch the world go by.
We grow a wide variety of vegetables for “swap and share” or “pick your own” with a bee friendly garden, set up by a local bee group, and a butterfly bed. Our range includes runner beans, climbing french beans, broad beans, rhubarb, kohl rabi, borlotti beans, artichokes, blackcurrants, peas, garlic, onions, courgettes, sweetcorn, butternut squash, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes apples and various herbs.
The raised beds by the wall can be accessed from the pavement to pinch off a few herbs for soups etc. Anyone can pick their own and leave a donation or bring some of their own excess produce to swap for some from the garden. We welcome volunteers helping with garden tasks.
With the onset of lockdown, many of us were in the age group advised to stay at home. We needed to focus on what we could do and the Community Garden seemed to be the place to do it. We were already growing seedlings for the Swap and Share corner so we upped production as people could not go to car boot sales or the local garden centres for their early supplies. We continued planting as usual with plenty of room to keep our distance.
A very valuable part was played being able to have conversations with people walking by getting their daily exercise, stopping to see what was on offer but, possibly more importantly, sharing anxieties and frustrations. We had offers of help from workers who had been furloughed and surplus seedlings brought to share.
We were approached by a social worker looking for a way to encourage youngsters to follow the stay at home rule and came up with Grow Boxes containing easy to grow vegetables and fun flowers-everything edible. There were climbing French beans with bamboos, courgettes, seeds (nasturtium, sunflower, runner beans, peas), pots, compost and an instruction sheet with photos.
They were very popular and we had many requests for extra boxes. Herbs were very popular and one 10 year-old decided to create a sensory garden with herbs and deliver eggs to his neighbours. Next year we will set up workshops with an array of seedlings already started and pots and trays to sow seeds so children can come and make their own Grow Box.
We have continued to receive large quantities of tomato and other seedlings which have found their way into local homes and gardens and an increasing number of would-be gardeners.
Having seen videos of people playing out of doors, neighbours making up groups, we thought how the garden would lend itself to music being played under the shelter for pop-up events. Plenty of space to keep your distance. Two musicians who have been unable to go to each other’s homes to practise brought a harp and violin to get in some practice, mainly Cornish dance music which inspired some teenage boys to improvise a dance-much appreciated by the musicians.
We are expecting a quartet next week and hopefully a teenage group. Sunday’s addition to our usual garden session was a pottery session making plates using leaves from the garden to make a pattern. We have plenty of suitable leaves-sunflower, rhubarb, kohl rabi, courgette. First job was to wander around the garden to choose a leaf, then roll out the clay ready to roll the leaf on top to make the pattern. The leaf is peeled off and the clay raised at various points to create the shape. This is fired in a kiln,painted and fired again.
To be able to get out of the house and focus on a therapeutic activity is essential for the wellbeing of people suffering from anxiety or other problems. Next week the knitting group will be meeting under the shelter.