The Community Garden and Allotment is a lovely space in Gibbonsdown, Barry. You will find it tucked away at the edge of a large playing field, next to Old Pencoedtre Allotments, Dyfnallt Road. It does exactly what it says on the tin – fosters an inclusive growing community that reconnects people with nature and each other. Anyone can go along to help out. Gardening knowledge is not essential – but it helps! The growing space facilitates development of green skills that can be used to expand opportunities for employment and inform a healthier lifestyle.
The group first approached Environment Wales in 2009 with a plan to turn
a piece of ‘wasteland’ into an allotment for the community. With the support of a Development Officer the group applied for their first Project grant for equipment and materials to develop the infrastructure of the project. What followed was a vibrant allotment project with dedicated volunteers who learned to grow the land and in turn themselves. Then in 2012 the group experienced a period of transition which saw not only a change in name but new members to take the project forward. In that time, however, the growing project lost some of its momentum and volunteers but it was determined to thrive as a worthwhile amenity for the local community. The group continued to work with their Environment Wales Development Officer and stakeholders to secure this and in 2013, applied for and were awarded a Management grant for a Part-time Garden Manager. The post holder was employed to increase volunteer numbers, grow and maintain links with the local community groups and develop the project, so that it eventually becomes part or self sustaining.
In order to achieve the first aim, newly appointed Garden Manager, Lisa Williams, launched a ‘Garden volunteer day’ to spread awareness of the project and encourage more volunteers to take part in the project. When the Environment Wales team heard about the drive, we promoted the project and helped spread awareness through our registered project network. As with all of the projects supported by the initiative, we always want to and try to do more. So, one Autumnal Saturday morning in October – Kate, Gareth and Michelle from the Environment Wales team (and a few of their friends) took part in the volunteer day at Barry Community Garden and Allotment project. There was plenty of digging and planting to be done. The team weren’t overwhelmed as Lisa co-ordinated our efforts and pointed us in the right direction.
As a growing team we were encouraged to take part in every activity the day had to offer – we didn’t need experience. Patches of land was dug over – ready for planting, and nails were reclaimed, from unused raised beds, to create a segregated growing area, adjacent to the pathway. Once the area was prepared, plants and bulbs were lined up to be planted. Everyone managed to join in and ask questions about the plants and practically do their bit to enhance the growing space. After a few hours distinct areas of the garden started to take shape. Lisa explained she had exciting plans to develop the area, one job was to erect a polytunnel which would extend the growing season and the types of plants the volunteers could grow.
As the volunteer day came to a close we all went away from the project with a real sense of achievement. It was great to see community members of all ages and growing knowledge to come together and create the beginnings of a ‘green haven’ within Gibbonsdown.
The project offers some great activities – events, workshops and training to both budding and experienced growers. If you are interested in volunteering, have a skill that you could share or want to find out more about the project please visit: https://www.facebook.com/BarryCommunityGardenAllotment