A community grows amongst the raised beds

Golding Homes Community Garden project launch

In the UK there are over 200 Garden Organic supported Master Gardeners, that’s over 200 passionate and enthusiastic growers helping people live healthier, happier lives through organic growing. In this issue we discover how one such Garden Organic supported project has helped create a community in a housing estate in Kent.

Last year, Garden Organic was approached by Golding Vision, the community development arm of Golding Homes who provide homes to over 20,000 people around the Maidstone, Medway, Ashford, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge & Malling areas. The team at Golding Vision wanted to explore the possibility of establishing a community garden with residents from Walshaw House and Telford House, in central Maidstone. The project was launched with two simple aims: bring together residents of all ages living within the two blocks, and empower them to grow their own food.

The community garden was run through regular growing sessions led by a session worker covering a wide range of subjects from food growing to weeding, and from picking peas to bug hunting. 20 weekly sessions took place in total, all with the aim of inspiring residents, and passing on all the knowledge they need to be able to continue to manage and develop the gardens themselves for years to come.

The sessions proved exceptionally popular, with a total of 140 adults and children attending some or all of them. The result is a beautiful garden that’s really captivated the passion and enthusiasm of the local residents. The garden features a selection of raised beds planted with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, which included strawberries, runner beans, tomatoes and courgettes. The layout and choice of varieties was all led by the residents themselves, taking into account what would inspire the younger generations to get involved.

Not only is the garden feeding residents with fresh healthy organic fruit and veg, but it’s also providing a real focal point for the estate, giving residents a beautiful spot to meet and get to know their neighbours. And this is where the garden has had the biggest impact on residents within the two blocks. In an area where residents admitted that they rarely had the opportunity to get to know their neighbours, they are now meeting up regularly, forming strong and lasting friendships. “It’s [the garden] been a positive influence on the adults that live round here because generally you don’t really have a reason to talk to a lot of people,” commented Rebecca, local resident “but we look forward to Wednesdays now so we can all have a chat.”

This community spirit is filtering down to the younger generations too. “I think the kids are absolutely loving it. It’s given them a focus. They’re usually round here doing something, either taking out the weeds or just watering.” Commented Linda, resident. What’s more, some of those involved in the community garden have taken what they’ve learnt and applied it to their own homes and gardens, growing food in their own gardens and on their window ledges.

We have been blown away by the success of this project, and the enthusiasm with which it has been greeted by residents. “It’s been really fun and a privilege to work with the tenants.” Said Liza Scholefield, Master Gardener Regional Co-ordinator, “They’ve been really interested, they’ve learnt loads and they’ve worked really hard on this garden.”

A fitting testament to the success of the Walshaw and Telford community garden came at the end of last year, when Kent Wildlife Trust awarded the garden ‘Highly Commended’ in their 2015 Wild About Gardens scheme. This was due to the wildlife friendly nature of the garden. “It’s fantastic for the garden to be recognised with this award,” commented Liza, “it really pays testament to the hard work that each and every one contribute.” The team at Golding Homes are equally as pleased with the success of this project and are keen to look at ways it can be rolled out across other locations.

Watch a short video about this inspiring project below

Thursday, 28 January 2016