Getting Dirty With The Neighbours – The Benefits Of Community Gardening

Added by Shaun Wheatcroft  |  Last updated December 22, 2015
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Lia Leendertz explores the growing popularity of community gardening projects in the UK.

“Get involved, get muddy & get well fed to boot”

Garden1 Getting Dirty With The Neighbours   The Benefits Of Community Gardening

One of the loveliest trends in gardening in the past few years has been the growth in community gardening. Community gardens are gardens run by groups of people, often voluntarily, for the love of it. They have sprung up and now flourish all over the country, taking many forms and guises. Some make use of the gaps between housing blocks on previously barren housing estates, others of once abandoned allotment plots, while others are more nomadic and transitory, groups of gardeners who plant up and care for whatever council planters and plots of unloved land fall on their beat. Where gardening has traditionally been a solitary activity, practiced head down, man communing with soil, in the new community gardens it is about support, reconnecting with community, laughter, fun and food.

Garden2 Getting Dirty With The Neighbours   The Benefits Of Community GardeningImage Credit: Mobile Gardeners

In the course of my work as a garden writer I have been lucky to have visited a number of community gardens, and have always found them particularly happy places. The one with which I am most familiar is the Golden Hill Community garden, on my own allotment site in north Bristol. At the bottom of the hill on which the site lies were a number of unused and near unusable plots. They had been unoccupied for many years because of a problem with drainage which left them flooded frequently through the year and particularly badly in winter, and yet they lay very near the main gate, giving the impression that the whole place was neglected, when this was far from the truth. Our forward-thinking allotment committee applied for grants not only to turn this area into a community garden but to put in new drains and an infrastructure of paths and raised beds, which has turned this into a vibrant and beautiful space. Workshops, play groups, pizza evenings, bonfire night celebrations and carol evenings now all take place in this once boggy and weedy place, and the local community is slowly but surely being drawn in. The gates are often thrown open, where before they were always locked. This sort of development on allotment sites can only have a positive impact on the status of the allotments themselves: the more people feel involved in the allotments, the more outrage there would be should anyone make a move to sell them or build on them. It feels like only a good thing for the area.

Garden3 Getting Dirty With The Neighbours   The Benefits Of Community Gardening
Image Credit: The Golden Hill Community Garden

But the Golden Hill Community Garden lies in a fairly well off community, and it is arguable that the benefits that such gardens can bring – such as greater community cohesion and improvements in nutrition – are even more welcome in less affluent areas. The idea for the Growing Kitchen in the Wenlock Barn Estate in Hackney sprung from a group of residents who took control of the management of their estate. There were many green spaces, but they were just grass, kept short, and used to exercise dogs and little else. It was decided to use some of this space to grow food, and The Growing Kitchen now boasts 35 mini allotments and has altogether provided around 90 people with the opportunity to start growing food. Celebrations are held in the garden, which gather members of the community together to cook and eat and learn about healthy eating. Sarah Adams, a member of the Tenants Management Organisation (TMO) says: ‘These events are important because they help us to reach people from the wider community. Many older people are very isolated and there is rising childhood obesity. These events are a fun way of bringing everyone together and trying to tackle some of these issues’. Two of the new allotment holders have started a business growing herbs and salads for local restaurants.

 Garden4 Getting Dirty With The Neighbours   The Benefits Of Community Gardening

Image Credit: Hulme Community Garden Centre

Above all though, it is the act of gardening that has proved to be a sort of social glue, a boundary-crossing activity that has pulled the tenants together. Sarah says:  ‘I’m on the board of the TMO and we have really struggled in the past to engage some groups in the way the estate is run. In particular we have found it hard to encourage mums with kids, older people and our Turkish neighbours to get involved. But these are the groups that enjoy getting involved in the garden and so we have found a new way of involving them. It is really positive; we have people from Iraq, Turkey and Africa taking part in the project; often they have come from a culture of food growing and they talk of how important growing is to them, it reminds them of home.’

 Garden5 Getting Dirty With The Neighbours   The Benefits Of Community GardeningImage Credit: King’s Cross Skip Garden

Though the majority of community gardens can be found in city settings, this is not a purely urban phenomenon. There are rural problems too that community gardening can gently tackle. I visited KnucklasCastle Hill Community Land Project a little while ago, a community garden and allotments set on a beautiful hillside in the Teme Valley in Powys, Wales, with views across to Offa’s Dyke. Although the setting is idyllic, life here can be tough, with many of the men of the village working away on the ‘lines’ – maintaining the electricity pylons and lines – for stretches of time in harsh conditions. The village community was fragmented and there were few places where fresh food could be bought. When a stretch of hillside next to the village came up for sale three villagers quickly bought it, for the use of the whole village. There is now a series of allotments, a children’s garden, and the start of a community-run commercial grower. Once a week the allotmenters take a stall outside the village pub, and sell their fresh produce to the villagers. The site is now being managed by a trust which is raising the money to buy it from the three owners and so in addition to all of the other benefits the village now has a strong sense of purpose as it pulls behind the fundraising effort.

Garden6 Getting Dirty With The Neighbours   The Benefits Of Community Gardening

Image Credit: Green Futures

Wherever it is practised, the act of picking up a spade and digging alongside your neighbours seems to bring nothing but good: fun, companionship and good food. There are lots of reasons to track down your nearest project and get involved: perhaps you don’t have a garden of your own, maybe you are not a confident gardener, or you just want to make a few friends. In this age of community growing there is very likely to be a project nearby. Get involved, get muddy, and get well fed to boot.

Written By Lia Leendertz

We’ve compiled a list of community garden projects from around the UK. Click on your region to find a local community gardening project you can get involved with.

Please also visit The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens who are a fantastic organisation who can help with the startup of a new community gardening project or with an already existing one.

Scotland

Edinburgh

Bridgend – Growing Communities

Website: bridgendcommunity.blogspot.com

Email: bridgendgrowingcommunities@gmail.com

Edible Estates

Website: www.edibleestates.co.uk

Email: g.robertson@re-solution.co.uk

Greyfriars Herb Garden

Website:

Email: jocelyn@grassmarketcommunityproject.co.uk

The Thistle Community Wildlife Garden

Website: www.thistle.org.uk

Email: dwilson@thistle.org.uk

Glasgow

Bothwell Community Garden

Website: www.bothwellcommunitygarden.org.uk

Email: info@bothwellcommunitygarden.org.uk

The Children’s Garden

Website: www.weegarden.co.uk

Email: john@childrensorchard.co.uk

Urban Roots Initiative

Website: www.urbanroots.org.uk

Email: projects@urbanroots.org.uk

Kilmarnock

Heal The Earth Community Garden

Website:www.healtheearthayrshire.org.uk

Email: mail@healtheearthayrshire.org.uk

North East

Grimsby

Green Futures Greater Grimsby

Website: www.greenfuturesgrimsby.co.uk

Email: carol@greenfuturesgrimsby.co.uk

High Spen

The Hop Garden

Website: www.thehopgarden.toucansurf.com

Email: thehopgarden@toucansurf.com

Newcastle

Bill Quay Community Farm

Website: www.billquayfarm.org.uk

Email: craig@billquayfarm.org.uk

Prudhoe

Prudhoe Community Allotment

Website: www.prudhoecommunityallotment.wordpress.com/

Email: joanrussell@talktalk.net

Ushaw Moor

Ushaw Moor Community Garden

Website: www.umag.org.uk

Email: johnarthurs266@btinternet.com

Whitley Bay

The Station Masters Community Wildlife Garden      

Website: www.stationmastersgarden.org

Email: duikabw@hotmail.com

York

YUMI (York Unifying and Multicultural Initiative)  

Website: www.yumiyork.org

Email: sasiki@yumiyork.org

Midlands

Birmingham

Highbury Orchard Community CIC

Website: www.peopleandland.org.uk

Email: hoccic@gmail.com

Martineau Gardens

Website: www.martineau-gardens.org.uk

Email: info@martineau-gardens.org.uk

Coventry

Allesley Park Walled Garden Group        

Website: www.coventry-walks.org.uk

Email: dandelion@ntlworld.com

Ilkeston

Arena Community Garden – Flourish Project

Website: www.arenachurch.co.uk

Email: lisa@arenacommunity.co.uk

Nottingham

Arkwright Meadows Community Gardens

Website: www.amcgardens.co.uk

Email: gardens@amcgardens.co.uk

Dig In Community Allotment

Website: www.diginstapleford.org.uk

Email: volunteering@diginstapleford.org.uk

Ecoworks

Website: www.ecoworks.org.uk

Email: info@ecoworks.org.uk 

Framework Allotments

Website: www.frameworkha.org

Email: gatewaytonature@frameworkha.org

Nuneaton

Nuneaton Transition

Website: www.nuneatontransition.com

Email: marie.transition@gmail.com

South East & East Anglia

Brighton

Fork and Dig It

Website: www.forkanddigit.co.uk

Email: sarawinnington@aol.com

Whitehawk Community Food Project

Website: www.bhaf.org.uk

Email: thefoodproject@yahoo.co.uk

Faversham

Abbey Physic Community Garden

Website: www.faversham.org

Email: abbeyphysic@btinternet.com

Hitchin

Hitchin Community Gardens

Website: www.trianglegarden.org

Email: triangle.garden@ntlworld.com

Ipswich

People’s Community Garden

Website: www.activlives.org.uk

Email: susannah@activlives.org.uk

Lewes

Baxter’s Field & Tythe Copse

Website: www.baxtersfield.co.uk

Email: baxtersfield@yahoo.co.uk

Lewes Organic Allotment Project

Website: www.commoncause.org.uk

Email: sarah@commoncause.org.uk

Reading

RISC Forest Roof Garden

Website: www.risc.org.uk

Email: admin@risc.org.uk

Sheringham

Sheringham Community Smallholding Project

Website: www.the-patch.co.uk

Email: pm@the-patch.co.uk

West Horsley

Grace and Flavour

Website: www.graceandflavour.org

Email: mail@graceandflavour.org

Worthing

Cortis Avenue Wildlife Garden

Website: www.facebook.com

Email: cortisavewildlife@gmail.com

London

Beckenham

Dorset Road Allotments and Leisure Gardens Society

Website: www.dorsetroadallotments.org.uk

Email: committee@dorsetroadallotments.org.uk

Brixton

Myatt’s Fields Park Project

Website: www.myattsfieldspark.info

Email: vsherwin@lambeth.gov.uk

Brockwell

Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses

Website: www.brockwellgreenhouses.org.uk

Email: education@brockwellgreenhouses.org.uk

Camberwell

Camberwell Farmers’ Garden

Website: www.camberwellfarmersgarden.ning.com

Email: brandon3gardeningclub@gmail.com

Croydon

Wandle Park

Website: www.wandlepark.wix.com/official

Crystal Palace

Website: www.crystalpalacetransition.org.uk

Email: hello@crystalpalacetransition.org.uk

Elephant and Castle

Mobile Gardeners

Website: www.mobilegardeners.org

Email: richard@mobilegardeners.org

Fulham

Greening Brownfield

Website: www.greeningbrownfield.blogspot.com

Email: newsletters@fionakearns.demon.co.uk

Hackney

Growing Communities

Website: www.growingcommunities.org

Email: growcomm@growingcommunities.org

Hammersmith

Hammersmith Community Gardens Assoc – Loris Road

Website: www.hcga.org.uk

Email: info@hcga.org.uk

Hoxton

St Mary’s Secret Garden

Website: www.stmaryssecretgarden.org.uk

Email: info@stmarysgarden.org.uk

Kings Cross

Kings Cross Skip Garden

Website: www.globalgeneration.org.uk

Email: generate@globalgeneration.org.uk

Maiden Lane Community Centre Garden Project

Website: www.maidenlanecommunitycentre.org

Email: davemlcc@yahoo.co.uk

Ladbroke Grove

Meanwhile Wildlife Garden (MIND)

Website: www.kcmind.org.uk

Email: garden@kcmind.org.uk

New Cross

Besson Street Community Garden

Website: www.nxgtrust.org.uk

Email: jill.mountford@nxgtrust.org.uk

Shadwell

Cable Street Community Garden

Website: www.cablestreetcommunitygardens.co.uk

Email: janesill@aol.com

Southwark

Red Cross Garden

Website: www.bost.org.uk

Email: info@bost.org.uk

South West

Bovey

Tracey Bovey Climate Action Community Garden

Website: www.boveycommunitygarden.org.uk

Email: gailbanham@talktalk.net

Bristol

The Golden Hill Community Garden/Horfield’s Accessible Allotment and Edible Forest

Website: www.thegoldenhillcommunitygarden.com

Email: ghcgarden@gmail.com

Devon

Landmatters Co-operative

Website: www.landmatters.org.uk

Email: landmatters@googlemail.com

Exeter

Exeter Community Garden

Website: www.exetercommunitygarden.com

Email: contact@exetercommunitygarden.com

Illfracombe

Ilfracombe Community Eco Garden – Cow Green

Website: www.tour-devon.com

Email: volunteer-centre@tiscali.co.uk

Kingsbridge

Kingsbridge Community Garden Project

Website: www.kingsbridgegarden.co.uk

Email: pauline@fryer33.eclipse.co.uk

Oldways End

Hawtree Community Partnership

Website: www.hawtreecommunitycommunitypartnership.co.uk

Email: hawtreecommunitypartnership@line.co.uk

South Cerney

Kemble Community Garden 

Website: www.kemblecommunitygardens.co.uk

Email: sarajanelawlor@yahoo.co.uk

Taunton

Frieze Hill Community Orchard   

Website: www.communityorchard.org.uk

Email: margaret@gibsonandtrott.co.uk

Torbay

Growing for life – Torbay      

Website: www.growing-for-life.co.uk

Email: terry.crockett@shekinahmission.co.uk

Wales

Aberystwyth

Mentro Lluest

Website: www.soilassociation.org

Email: developmentofficer@mentrolluest.org

Cardiff

Riverside Community Garden Allotment Project

Website: www.riversidemarket.org.uk

Email: isla@riversidemarket.org.uk

Sbectrwm Local Food Growing Project

Website: www.vision-twentyone.com

Email: fiona_cullen@vision-twentyone.com

Newton

Mid Wales Food and Land Trust

Website: www.midwalesfoodandlandtrust.org.uk

Email: cath@midwalesfoodandlandtrust.org.uk

Newtown Community Orchard

Website: www.facebook.com

Email: jeremy.thorp@googlemail.com

Pembroke Dock

Pembroke Dock Community Garden

Website: www.shireinitiative.co.uk

Email: stella.h@localeyes.org

Swansea

Transition Clevedon Community Garden

Website: www.transitionclevedon.org.uk

Email: transitionclevedon@gmail.com

North West

Bradford

Bradford Community Environment Project (BCEP)

Website: www.bcep.org.uk

Email: jane@bcep.org.uk

Northcliffe Environmental Enterprises Team

Website:

Email: neetoffice@gmail.com

Burnley

Burnley Food Links  

Website: www.burnleyfoodlinks.org.uk

Pennine Lancashire Community Farm

Website: www.penninelancashirecommunityfarm.org

Email: communityfarm@btconnect.com

Liverpool

Wirral Environmental Network

Website: www.cesul.org.uk

Telephone Number: 0151 639 2121

Macclesfield

Website: www.food4macc.org

Email: food4macc@gmail.com

Manchester

Debdale Eco Centre

Website: www.debdale-ecocentre.org.uk

Email: charlotte@debdale-ecocentre.org.uk

Hulme Community Garden Centre

Website: www.hulmegardencentre.org.uk

Email: info@hulmegardencentre.org.uk

Sheffield

Firth Park Sure Start Community Allotment

Website:

Email: vicky.cooper@nhs.uk

Sage Green Fingers

Website: www.sagesheffield.org.uk

Email: enquiries@sagesheffield.org.uk

Northern Ireland

Belfast

Groundwork Northern Ireland

Website: www.groundworkni.org.uk

Email: info@groundworkni.org.uk

Let us know if there are any community projects we have missed and we will add them to the list. Please email James@whitinguk.com

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Shaun Wheatcroft is the community blogger of Garden Buildings Direct. Come and say hi!
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