Community Q&A | Cath Fletcher

Cath Fletcher, member of Welsh House Farm Green Grafters

Our Cultivation Street network is made up of hundreds of individuals. We come across such great characters and personalities, all of whom add value to the Cultivation Street network. We thought it would be interesting to shine a light on a few of these characters here on our blog.

We had a quick question and answer session with Cath Fletcher from Welsh House Farm Green Grafters in Birmingham, one of our 2018 Cultivation Street Shortlisted Communities.

What is your job role within the community project you are involved with?

Within the Welsh House Farm Green Grafters I am officially the secretary of the constituted group, but on a day to day level all volunteers are on an even keel and so along with the others I take part in the planning and planting where I can around other commitments, as well as organising and occasionally leading on workshops or events related to gardening and environmental activities.

I am also the Green Connector for Greener Cleaner Firs & Bromford where I facilitate and coordinate activities, events and development alongside the community for the green spaces in the Firs and Bromford area of Birmingham. I provide ‘hands-on’ support to 5 focal green spaces, working with neighbours to develop growing projects, and to build a ‘Green Team’ of local residents passionate about maintaining, developing and using to the full the local green spaces.

Do you have any horticultural qualifications/experience?

Yes, I have an RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture and have studied the level 2 theory modules. I am currently working on a home study garden design course and have also completed various short courses via Thrive, and the RHS Campaign for School Gardening.

Experience wise I have also undertaken work in garden maintenance and garden design, including residential, community and achieving a Silver-merit for a 'Beautiful Border' at Gardeners' World Live 2018.

What is your highlight of your community work?

I love to see the changes that wouldn't happen without the input of this type of work, whether this is bright planting in previously bare spaces; the production of a fruit and vegetable supply for a community; new structures or facilities being made available; or most importantly, the increase in social interaction, confidence, skills, knowledge, friendships and support of the people involved.

How long have you been gardening?/Where did your gardening passion start?

I grew up in a family with keen gardeners and a lovely back garden so it's always been a part of my life, but the bug really got me around 4 years ago when I got my own garden that I could really get stuck into, followed by getting involved in local community gardening opportunities which eventually lead to taken on training and a career change into horticulture and community gardening.

While gardening what is your favourite drink and snack?

Tea to drink when facilities allow (which usually ends up being drunk cold with bits in after being forgotten somewhere in the garden), and ideally fresh fruit directly from source at the right time of year. (Otherwise you can never go wrong with biscuits!)

Tell us a little story about a community garden moment?

A while back a few of the Green Grafters were planting daffodil bulbs along the paths of Welsh House Farm Road and as well as the usual “hello's” and “thank you's” from passers-by, a neighbour across the road came out to see what we were up to. Firstly to offer cups of tea (which of course were accepted!), and secondly to ask if their children could come and join in. This was the first time I had experienced this unplanned participation from people just seeing what we were doing, and it really summed up the power of community gardening, even with a task as seemingly simple as planting a few bulbs! That day we made new friends and introduced more young people to gardening 🙂

What would be your top tip for someone starting a school/community project?

Visit other projects! In addition to just being enjoyable days out, there is so much to be learned from others who have been through the same journey, inspiration to be got from seeing projects at different stages, and both moral and practical support (and potential friendships) of networking with others with similar passions.

What is your favourite season and why?

There are great things about each season, but summer has to stay at the top if only because of the extra daylight hours to be in the garden longer!

What is your top tip for spring?

Be a bit cautious and don't get overly enthusiastic with sowing and planting too much too soon unless you have sufficient protective spaces, as spring can be fickle and throw in unexpected late frosts even after a summer-like spell

Where is your happy place?

My little 5m x 6m work-in-progress 'fruit corner' garden at home, a little peaceful suntrap sanctuary!

Do you have a pet?

Not at the moment, but I do take any opportunity available to borrow other people's dogs!

What are your community garden plans for 2019?

Plans are in progress in WHF around the development of a new garden site so I hope to see this moving forward over the year, and in Firs & Bromford the plan is to increase planting around the neighbourhood, have more regular groups and activities for all ages, engage more people in gardening, social and creative ways to build enthusiasm about improving green spaces.

What is your advice to anyone thinking of registering their garden to Cultivation Street?

Don't think it's not for you, just sign up whatever stage your garden is! It's a great network to be part of and if you're new to community gardening there is a lot of valuable knowledge and support to benefit from, and for those who have been doing it for a while it is an opportunity to share with and help others (as well as continue to learn, as that never stops!). It's also a good way to gather evidence of the progress of your garden to look back on how far you've come, and to receive feedback on how you're doing, as well as the obvious potential benefits of the competition categories!

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