While 2020 has not been the year we might have hoped for – nor one we would care to repeat – our annual Cultivation Street competition has sown plenty of green shoots of hope. Community gardeners up and down the country have done their level best to keep their patches running and stunning, despite the obstacles of Covid-19 and lockdown. We had a record number of entries this year and it’s clear the nation’s gardens, private or community, have been a place of respite, cheer and relaxation for many millions. We’re giving away £13,000 worth of prizes and hampers full of goodies from our sponsor, Miracle Gro®. And today, I’m honoured to reveal our five regional winners, chosen by our judging panel which includes myself, Sunday Mirror head of features Emma Pryer and Boyd Douglas Davies, communications director of the British Garden Centres Group. We really had our work cut out, but we all agreed on one thing – all those who entered shone a light of hope and positivity in a very uncertain year. Their share of the prize money will be revealed when the final rankings emerge. Next week I’ll be revealing the next set of winners, but read on now for garden inspiration...
Tinsley Community Allotment, Tinsley,
Sheffield Four years ago, a team of likeminded volunteers got together to clear a rubbish-filled local green space and transform it into a welcoming environment. Many people didn’t know the rundown allotment even existed, but after its makeover and open sessions, it now greets visitors for socialising, relaxation and to access organicallygrown fresh fruit and veg. Primary school children visit every week and the garden provides a safe space, especially to support and help those with disabilities or communication difficulties. In a deprived area, the garden has become a hub where visitors can take home fruit, vegetables and herbs, or simply cuttings to grow at home.
Judges’ Verdict: The Tinsley Allotment won the judges’ vote by being so focused on inclusivity. The allotment aims to make everyone feel welcome and ensure people feel like they have a place to go. They grow their food with the aim of providing it to those who need it most and create a space for those who feel isolated to meet new people
St Paul’s Youth Forum’s Blackhill’s Growing, Provanmill, Glasgow
Following an exchange trip to Zambia in 2010, St Paul’s Youth Forum looked into developing a gardening project to help support their members and their local community. The young people wanted a small market garden to grow and sell fresh produce to raise money for the club. Their underfunded and deprived area had been branded a “food desert”, with few local amenities where people could purchase affordable healthy food or sit and enjoy a meal with friends and family. That’s what the forum wanted to change – and, 10 years on, the Blackhill’s Growing project is now the only place in Blackhill where people can purchase affordable fruit and veg.
Judges’ Verdict: This garden was set up to do one thing – help others. Volunteers saw where their community was struggling most and decided to do something about it. They even grow wheat to make dough for their weekly pizza club.
OASIS Community Gardens, Worksop, Notts
This community garden was started a decade ago when the team took over a derelict youth club and an abandoned recreational field. Today the barren site is bursting with biodiversity. A huge array of wildlife thrives in the garden and the large local community in Kilton enjoys the space. Much of the focus is on the power of gardening and how nature can is an effective means of therapy. The garden runs projects to help specific groups in the community who are vulnerable or suffer from physical and mental illnesses. It’s an open and friendly space with plenty of opportunities for people to join in, share and socialise.
Judges’ Verdict: The OASIS garden really is focused and built around helping others. The group’s support of people with dementia, anxiety and other health issues is incredible. And they have everything – even chickens! It is a credit to everyone.
Clitterhouse Farm Garden, Cricklewood, North London
This garden was launched in 2017 by people passionate about encouraging locals to engage with nature and promoting the positive impact gardening can have on health. Each year, the garden has grown and its transformation has resulted in a valuable community resource. The volunteers are a diverse lot, but they all have one thing in common – their love for the garden. The project now has 16 apple and pear trees, which the birds love, and a whole area of wildflower beds to attract more pollinators. Volunteers built a path, to make the garden fully wheelchair accessible, and three arched seating areas where people can relax and reflect on their lovely surroundings. Judges’ Verdict: This garden has a majorly positive impact on its community. The volunteers did so much during lockdown to keep it going, while also encouraging their community to engage with nature by supplying seeds and fresh food. It’s incredible to see such a young garden becoming a huge part of a community so quickly.
Wales and Northern Ireland
Grow for Talgarth, Talgarth, Mid-Wales
In 2015, five volunteers decided to brighten their town with colourful planted displays. In a nod to Talgarth’s rich agricultural heritage, troughs were donated by farmers, painted and filled with flowers given by local people. Five years on, Grow for Talgarth is an interactive community garden which has built a strong sense of identity and pride while raising awareness of the benefits of gardening. The garden has reached beyond its boundaries – with 43 planters along the local riverside and around the town square and Church Hall. There’s a real sense of togetherness at the garden, with local businesses showing their support. Judges’ Verdict: What stood out was how the team used their skills to bring gardening into the community. Many volunteers are now revamping their own outside spaces at home. That’s a message we love and we can only commend Grow for Talgarth for spreading the joy of gardening.
Next week we will be revealing the winners of Gardens for Better Health and the Ambassador of the Year. So keep an eye out!!