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CASE STUDY: Community engagement in the shared garden

Green Community Hub: Workington Green Community Hub
Author:
Hannah Wright, Project Facilitator, Northern Network, Groundwork Cumbria and North East

Workington Town Council owns a community garden in the park in the centre of town, which is run by a fantastic organisation named Grow Well, who have a reliable group of volunteers who visit and work in the garden every Thursday.

They approached us to see if we could encourage more local community members to volunteer and to see if we could facilitate the opening of the garden on alternative days. Additionally, we were asked to see if we could support the opening of a small building (owned by the council) placed within the garden’s perimeter. 

So far, we have set up weekly sessions to encourage more volunteers to get involved. Some have been joining us to design nature-based murals which will be painted on the building and some have been gardening in a greenhouse nearby, where it is a lot warmer!

The Challenge:

Our first challenge was to reach as many local community members as possible and encourage them to come along and get involved in the Grow Well Community garden. We realised that this was not an easy task and started to think about different methods of reaching people. This was another challenge- finding and using the right methods.

Once we overcame the first challenges, we needed to think about how these individuals could be involved in the garden and how we could keep them engaged…It was coming up to winter and the actual garden would be closed until April 2023! So, we needed to source a venue and supplies to hold related activities during the cold winter months, keeping the momentum and enthusiasm of the individuals going.

Then, as Spring approached we were challenged with assessing and opening the building within the garden to encourage more users to come along and utilise the garden.

The Solution:

We spoke with our partners- Workington Town Council- who agreed to give us use of their community room and greenhouse, every Thursday 10-11am. For free!

We created posters and flyers and advertised weekly ‘Arts & Garden Sessions’. We circulated these amongst all of our contacts in and around Workington and asked them to encourage their participants/service users to come along. We also distributed flyers in the local area and advertised on social media. 

We wanted to make this group accessible to everyone (including those who don’t like or can’t garden due to physical disabilities). So, we had a nature-based arts activity, where participants designed murals that are to be painted onto the shutters of the building in the community garden, as well as gardening for those more ‘green fingered’.

We sourced match funding for supplies and were able to buy a range of art supplies and gardening tools.

Our last challenge was to open and utilize the building in the garden. So, we have arranged for an assessment to be made by another of our partner organisations- CAFs. This is likely to take place in Spring 2023.

Results:

Currently, around 8-10 participants join us for weekly ‘Arts & Garden’ sessions. Some have designed some fantastic environmentally themed murals which are due to be painted on the shutters of the building in the garden in Spring 2023. Some have been planting and growing in the greenhouse and have had great success- even in winter! And some, have been using pallets to build raised beds from scratch, to be placed in the garden when it reopens, which means that it will be more accessible for those with certain types of physical challenges.

We are having the building in the garden assessed in Spring 2023 and once that is complete we hope to make the building self-sustainable so that local community members who want to utilize that garden can do so, with access to shelter and other facilities- for free!

Lessons Learnt:

  1. It is important to utilise as many methods of reaching people as possible- social media, flyers, known contacts etc.
  2. During winter, people are put off by the weather and often don’t engage in outdoor activities. Therefore, we learned to adapt the activity to fit in with the weather and gave individuals an option of carrying out nature-based activities indoors.
  3. A ‘community’ garden is for the community. Let’s make it accessible to everyone!

This case study was written by Hannah Wright, a project facilitator for Groundwork Cumbria and North East. You can find out more about her work in Workington below.

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