Regional Community Garden Winners 2019 – Sunday Mirror

It has been an incredible year for Cultivation Street. Our 2019 campaign has attracted record entries from across the UK since its launch in February. Picking the winners has been harder than ever. Today we’re revealing the first batch, who share nearly £20,000 worth of prizes, plus each finalist gets 100 stunning Calliope® geranium plugs from our main sponsor. Our five regional winners were picked from thousands of entries.

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Judges, including Mark Glover, chief executive of Newington Communications, and the Sunday Mirror’s deputy editor, Gemma Aldridge, had their work cut out. Mark said: “The breadth, creativity and commitment of all those involved demonstrated that these awards reach beyond the horticulture community and touch the lives of so many people from all walks of life in so many different, positive ways.”

Blackhill’s Growing, Provanmill, Glasgow

Blackhill’s Growing has blossomed into a major community asset after starting in 2015 as a social enterprise with six hens, allowing local young people to sell the eggs. By February 2016, volunteers had planted an orchard. In May of that year, the first polytunnel was installed and by August they were harvesting potatoes and salad crops. Since then, the project has developed even more growing space – made up of seven different sections – and also branched out into beekeeping and turkeyrearing. The orchard now has
29 trees, and there are eight outside raised beds in which community members and local groups can grow what they want. There are also three areas growing flowers for pollinators.

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JUDGES’ VERDICT: There was strong competition in the Scottish regional category, but this garden has had a huge impact on the local community, helping to redefine diets in the area. It regularly provides freshgrown produce to up to 65 people a week. The garden has also helped a further 79 local households grow at home and enabled others to develop employment skills. Amazing results.

Wonky Garden Project, Halton, Cheshire

Volunteers working on the Wonky Garden have a motto: Sow, grow and go! The project came about in 2017 when a group of volunteers met while having cancer treatment and decided to pool their knowledge and launch a community garden. Over the last two years, they have focused on creating beautiful outdoor health and wellness spaces at busy community centres – a hospital rehabilitation ward, a hospice and a rugby club. Their goal,
over the next two years, is to become self-sufficient through floristry services and plant sales.

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JUDGES’ VERDICT: The focus of the Wonky Garden is physical and mental health, wellness and life/ vocational skills – engaging with all generations, ages and abilities. The result is a magical mix of individuals and groups. Students of all ages enjoy the gardens and the feedback from teachers and children has been extraordinary. Plus, they’ve seen a steady increase in wildlife, Winners all round.

Saffron Acres, Leicester, Leics

The Saffron Acres site started as a very small allotment where local people came together to learn gardening skills and socialise. Now the site has expanded to around 13 acres. The reclaimed land itself was previously derelict and notorious for anti-social behaviour. Thanks to the project, it is now an urban oasis full of environmental and educational features – and more than 3,000 people directly benefit. The site has two polytunnels growing a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, experimenting with unusual varieties – including their own local variety of plum, the ‘Syston White’. Recently, they have planted an additional 200m of native hedging to create a wildlife corridor. This area also features a pre-Victorian field pond with a thriving population of smooth newts, beehives, a hazel and willow coppice, a bug hotel and a native wildflower meadow.

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JUDGES’ VIEW: This entry was incredibly impressive in terms of recent achievements. The last 12 months alone has seen volunteers adapt the space for wheelchair accessibility and add raised beds for working at different heights. Cuttings of strawberry, grape, blackberries and loganberries have been planted out to increase the amount of food they can offer to local food banks. Since the garden began, there has been an anecdotal decline in levels of anti-social behaviour in the area.

Herts & Essex Community Farm, Harlow, Essex

Allotments are hard to come by in Harlow so in 2013, a group of residents came together and transformed a derelict patch of council land into a green haven. Within the first year, they had cleared enough of the site to start growing crops and hold a minimusic festival — and one has been held every year since. The garden now has 12 raised beds suitable for wheelchair users, 10 growing beds, two allotment pots, three polytunnels and a large brassica tunnel, plus a wildlife pond and secret garden. Bird boxes, bug hotels and feeders have been hung and an orchard has been planted, along with flowers and fruit bushes especially for the wildlife.

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JUDGES’ VERDICT: The Herts & Essex Community Farm won because it has had an amazing impact on so many people – and
(based on organic, sustainable principles) is clearly helping local wildlife too. Schools use the large wooden classroom on site and, in the last 12 months, a barbecue area has been built, along with a large grassed area with a stage and beehives. Volunteers have transformed a badly littered area into a meeting place for everyone in the local area to enjoy – the very essence of Cultivation Street.

Grow for Talgarth, Talgarth, Wales

In 2015, five volunteers wanted to brighten up the town with colourful planted displays. Troughs were donated by farmers, painted and filled with flowers donated by locals. Now it’s an interactive and bustling space for everyone in the community with 32 beds adorning the town square, the riverside walk and a new garden. The community garden runs along the riverside for about 50m. At one end is the war memorial area filled with flowers and a large community herb and vegetable box. At the other end is a wildlifefriendly garden full of colour and scents – the perfect place for visitors to sit and relax.

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JUDGES’ VERDICT: Without doubt, this project brought people together and broadened their horticultural skills, which was why it was so eye-catching to the judges. There has been an amazing
increased sense of community pride and cohesion, and an appreciation of living in a town that looks well-loved. The Riverside Garden sees people sitting, picnicking and enjoying the river bank – all appreciating the beauty of the spaces.

Be sure to check out the Sunday Mirror Sunday 29th September where we will announce the OVERALL WINNER and the list of prizes!

Published in the Sunday Mirror

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