Who are you and where are you from?
I am Tessa Lynn, Chair of the Olive Branch Community Garden Community. The garden is located in the Dogsthorpe and Welland ward in Peterborough. It is a natural paradise surrounded by homes and shares one of its borders with a small number of private allotments. It is a community grow space, meeting place, natural family environment with play area, pond, mini woodland walk, basic cooking and tea making facilities, and compost toilet.
What got you started in the community garden?
I was fortunate to have stumbled upon the garden in a time of personal challenges. Being involved in the garden means more than words. Through connecting with the natural environment and sharing it with so many fantastic people, it has changed my perception on living in Peterborough and I am now part of a community that I am extremely proud of.
The local community
Tell us about your local community and any issues that exist there?
It is an urban area which faces many challenges, including high numbers of people with mental health problems, high unemployment and Dogsthorpe and Welland is identified within the top 10/20% of the most deprived areas in UK (ref). It is also identified as an area of concern due to very low numbers of young people moving on into higher education (ref).
Local teachers and preschool managers have expressed concerns that young children are unaware of where their food comes from, often quoting major supermarkets when asked.
What has your community garden done to the community?
To put it simply the Olive Branch Community Garden has changed people’s lives and has meant that people who felt alone, now feel part of a community. It is a space that provides a plethora of people, who have diverse range of needs and challenges, with the space, education and support that enriches all our lives.
Tips for other Community groups on how to engage with schools and garden centers?
Schools are easier than you think. Contact them and start the conversation. Having access to natural environments whatever shape or size will provide many opportunities to explore different aspects of the curriculum. Ask to see the plan for lessons over the term ahead to see how to support the curriculum.
As for garden centres, you need to identify the right person to speak to, sometimes a manager, sometimes a dedicated person to community relations and ask them to visit your space. Let them know some of the specifics about what you need help with, if you don’t ask you don’t get! Cultivation Street are also in the process of getting our local garden centre on board, once they have made contact an ambassador is nominated. Just like the categories, the inspiring and outstanding ambassadors can also win cash prizes for themselves!
Ideas and projects for the future...
The CIC managing the garden have recently secured a 25-year lease which has inspired a process of developing a long-term community-led vision for the garden. This has involved planning for a growing circle, literacy area, storytellers cabin, memory garden, large poly tunnels, eco-classroom, outdoor community cooking area, workshop, peace pods and indoor dining area to name a few ideas. These are currently being designed, planned and where necessary routes are being identified to turn our community dreams into reality (funding/sponsorship/donations/volunteer recruitment).
We aim to engage with even more local groups by planning regular sessions with more local schools, children’s centres, faith organisations and many more. We are proud to provide a safe, inspiring and therapeutic space for those facing challenges.
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Community gardens across the UK are not only growing rapidly in numbers but are also doing incredible work, transforming lives as well as the land itself. We would love you to join us now.