Where is this and who and how did it start?
We worked with a local church in Hollinsend to create a community garden. The demand for making the church grounds more available to the community was already there and the church members were looking at ways that they could broaden their community activities.
What did the project do?
This hub focussed on creating a garden that could be used both as a better, more eye-friendly use of the church garden, but also to produce food that was distributed to elderly church-goers and residents.
We took a disused bit of land at the rear of the church and turned it into a vegetable garden that was suitable for the elderly and those with limited mobility. Thus it was developed with wheelchair users in mind so that they had room to manoeuvre between the raised beds and access the plants.
This turned into a weekly growing activity with multiple one-off volunteer events to achieve the construction. The land was an old telephone exchange, which meant there were many difficulties such as the state of the soil, which had to be dug up and sieved to remove the years of glass and concrete. This also aided the decision to create raised beds rather than planting in the ground, both because of the state of the soil and because it created a higher platform to work on that was wheelchair-accessible and easier on elderly volunteers.
A sun-trap was created by paving one corner and creating a patio on which herbs and potted plants were grown. A water irrigation system and fence were put in place, making the area viable and secure.
How successful was it?
‘’The high point of this project was working with all the volunteers to build the raised beds and plant crops. Eventually we were able to feed our volunteers with food from the garden! This was a great way to thank them as without their help this project would never have succeeded’’
Andrew Thornton, Community Growers Co-ordinator.
After the initial graft, we decided to organise a public launch and invited the deputy Lady Mayor. Suddenly all hands went to the mixing bowls! Cakes were made by the congregation and nearly all the church folk attended our launch event. We had quite a party and were also blessed with good weather..
The hub is continuing to thrive and we have obtained further funding to continue work here. More volunteer days are booked in to help with this work. We definitely receive less scepticism now and the church committee seem to have faith in our vision! The regular church goers are proud of their new garden and that their Church has had so many international helpers. The Church also received kudos for having one of Sheffield’s only wheelchair friendly gardens.
What have we learned?
It was an ambitious project and very labour intensive and we were reliant on external volunteers for the initial hard graft required to create the garden. This work wasn’t suited to the older regulars of Church so we were fortunate to get in so many young volunteers. Many hundreds of volunteer hours were put in over the year and we were fortunate to hold some “Employer Supported Volunteering” sessions with Irwin Mitchell as well as students from the University.
Some church members were very sceptical of the project at first, mainly because of the age group of the congregation. It meant that taking on a project like this would mean a big make over with limited help. The turnaround came mostly from two key church volunteers who just wanted to show something could be achieved.