After hours of deliberation, I’m over the moon to announce the winners of the five regional Community Garden categories, who have produced inspiring gardening projects absolutely bursting with community spirit. The winners will each be receiving a cash prize of £1000 plus 100 Calliope® geranium plants in recognition of their incredible achievement.
Shoulder to Soldier Community Garden, Leigh, Greater Manchester
With an ethos of accessibility and inclusion, 30 Armed Forces veterans have worked tirelessly to turn a once-neglected area of scrubland into a lush garden accessible to wheelchair users and amputees alike.
Project member, Linda Fisher, said: “Created by a formidable force of people who served Queen and Country, our garden has helped a significant number of people with anxiety, depression, mental health conditions, social isolation and loneliness. It’s a real community garden, with a community spirit. It has a shed and a kettle at its heart and veterans with specialist skills helping other veterans.”
JUDGES’ VERDICT: We loved the inclusivity of this garden’s wheelchair-friendly pathways and varied-height raised beds and that it is giving such joy to our veterans.
Stanford and Cleveland Community Garden, Brighton
As of 2014, the 15-strong team at Stanford and Cleveland have converted a once-uninspiring piece of tarmac into a thriving garden for the whole community to enjoy.
Resident Debbie Pryer said: “We are completely self-funded and the prize money will be very useful in helping us to maintain the garden. We will be buying planters to allow those who have difficulties bending down to have easier access.”
JUDGES’ VERDICT: We chose this garden because we were amazed at the remarkable amount that has been achieved by so few people. We loved the garden’s grow-your-own raised beds with free produce for the community to pick, and their ethos of ‘take what you need, but leave some for others.’
Tiny Trowels Community Garden, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
This unusual project is run by Alison Pike who has turned her own back garden into a community space for local children to enjoy. Around 60 children a week attend Alison’s Tiny Trowels sessions to grow plants from seed, go on bug hunts and befriend the garden’s chickens.
Alison said: “Tiny Trowels has been wonderfully received over the years with hundreds of children having been through the garden gate. It has been lovely to see friendships form not only between the children but also the adults. Parenting can sometimes be a lonely job and to have other parents around you that you can talk to over a cuppa can be priceless.”
JUDGES’ VERDICT: Alison’s passion really shines through and the impact that her project has not only on the children who attend, but also on the parents and caregivers who bring them is immense.
Tenby Day Centre, Tenby, Pembrokeshire
This fantastic project uses gardening as therapy for elderly people suffering from depression, loneliness and dementia. They have a remembrance rose garden, comfortable seating areas and a herb garden to stimulate the senses of partially-sighted visitors.
Sing Taylor, one of the co-ordinators, said: “Our garden has been grown from seed and made with love. It is proof that age doesn’t matter, if you work as a community you can achieve wonderful things.”
JUDGES’ VERDICT: The team at Tenby Day Centre have really gone the extra mile for their patrons. We were thrilled to see a day centre that encourages people to connect with nature and with one another, rather than just plonking them down in front of a TV screen.
Tay View Community Garden, Dundee
Located on a formerly disused inner-city site near one of the most polluted crossroads in Dundee, Tay View Garden has terraces for locals to grow their own food and a designated art wall for graffiti artists and local children to paint whatever they like.
Community member, Stuart Fairweather, said: “The gardeners themselves are a polyglot bunch from all corners of the Earth, growing crops that they can use to create personal dishes from their own cultures to share with others. Fruit, veg, wildlife and art come together in a many faceted project in a thriving community.
JUDGES’ VERDICT: This garden stood out to us because it involves such a cross-section of the community—from school children to ex-addicts to refugees. The sense of community that these gardeners have created is second to none.