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Reform Magazine | August 21, 2017

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Community in bloom

Community in bloom

Stan Hazell visits an award-winning gardening project

Walk around the streets surrounding Stand United Reformed Church in Chapelfield, Greater Manchester, and you cannot fail to spot the raised planters, which, from spring to the end of summer, are full of colourful displays of vegetables, herbs, soft fruits and flowers. Anyone is welcome to help themselves to the produce.

The planters and their enticing contents are part of the church’s Grow Your Own project, supported by local businesses and the community. Before the project began, there was little community spirit. Few people knew their neighbours. Antisocial behaviour was a problem. Seeing how communities had come together to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee, church members wondered what else could be achieved to create more of a community spirit. Gareth Ogden, a church elder and lifelong resident, thought a gardening project might be the answer. Social housing managers Six Town Housing welcomed the idea and have become project partners. Local residents were supportive. Soon, a small team of volunteers was assembled.

Launched in 2013, the planters were at first established mostly around social housing. Gareth, now joined by local resident Barbara Law, and others, began planting a variety of fruit and vegetables: potatoes, beans, broccoli, carrots, kale, rhubarb, raspberries and redcurrants. A few months later, residents could see the results. There was no shortage of takers. Kale has proved one of the most popular choices.

There are no bars on who can take advantage of the free produce. Volunteers make sure that produce is delivered to the needy or housebound if necessary. “Pick me now” notices go up at harvest time, followed by “Now I need to rest. Don’t pick me” during growing time…

 

Stan Hazell is a Bristol-based freelance journalist. Chapelfield’s Grow Your Own project was awarded a runner-up prize of £2,000 in the United Reformed Church Community Project Awards 2014 – an initiative sponsored by Congregational and General Insurance plc. Winners of the 2016 Community Project Awards will be announced at the URC General Assembly in July and reported in the September edition of Reform

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This article was published in the May 2016 edition of  Reform.

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