This year the community garden is celebrating it’s 10th Anniversary and we had a lovely opportunity to work with Wren Music, thanks to funding from Arts Council England, to bring to the community an afternoon of ‘folk and frolicking’ – floral headdresses – folk music – maypole dancing – songs around the fire and a barbecue!
We began 2021 with great deal of optimism. With life slowing down and changing in unexpected ways during 2020, some people discovered the community garden for the first time, and were pleasantly surprised by what goes on right on their doorstep. This encouraged us to apply for some funding to help us extend our offer. Writing funding applications has never been a strong point and we are extremely grateful to everyone who has funded us in the past.
National Lottery Community Fund
Thanks to funding from National Lottery Community Fund we created a ‘secret garden’ for our well-being activities and upgraded our toilet facility.
Devon County Council
We received funding from DCC to help us run more Covid-safe outdoor activities in the garden. We have also secured funds to set up a gardening club for families starting in 2022. We believe that when we are connecting with nature, it truly helps our mental health, and that can have such a positive impact on our physical well-being too. While engaging young people with healthy food production we hope that we can do our little bit to help alleviate some of the food poverty we are seeing locally while connecting children actively with the environment.
Okehampton United Charities
Who let the Dad’s out helped us with some fundraising to help make the garden more child friendly, Okehampton United Charities provided funds for picnic tables, a sandpit, outdoor games and a beautiful mud kitchen.
Devon Community Foundation
Devon Community Foundation have helped us purchase items, such as a gazebo, that will help us promote the activities at the garden and generate a revenue stream to enable us to continue beyond the funding, as well as help us develop our programme of well-being activities. We have signed up as an activity provider with the Children’s University so children participating in the scheme can get their passport signed when they attend our activities.
Great Western Railway
Okehampton has been campaigning for the reinstatement of the railway line to Exeter for the past 20 years. In 2019 GWR announced that we were going to get the line reinstated. In 2021 the line opened and carried the first passenger train from Okehampton to Exeter in October 2021. We were thrilled to bits when we were informed that our funding application to purchase a new tractor mower had been approved. The mower arrived just before Christmas. We had previously been donated a second hand ride on mower which wasn’t really up to the job as the area of grass at the community garden is quite extensive. We had replaced the cutter deck in 2020 so the mower was in better condition than when we received it and so we decided to donate to someone who would appreciate having it as much as we did. The mower was donated to Wishtree Permaculture project.
We are really please to announce our partnership with Literature Works and Katy Cawkwell, to bring a free storytelling workshop to the garden. Katy is brilliant and truly brings a story to life. Thanks to this funding we are holding one workshop and two Blaze sessions, where people have an informal, relaxed platform to practice what they learned in Kay’s workshop.
Spending time enjoying the outdoors lifts the spirit, coupled with some gentle Tai Chi and the beautiful backdrop of Dartmoor, it’s very easy to lose time in the community garden. We don’t take things too seriously, we seldom rush and we always have time for a cuppa. We are proud of the variety of thing we do here now. Next year will be our ten year anniversary and we hope to fill it with some really fun projects, both of the gardening variety and more well-being events. We are already talking about holding a storytelling workshop with Katy, with funding from Literacy Works. This year we brought some hula hoop classes to the garden, what a hoot! Eve is a lovely, encouraging instructor and she always has a beautiful smile. The lovely Laura organised some early morning meditation sessions in the garden, one lady said ‘the effects lasted a long time and I felt much more chilled out’. We love the vibe that the garden attracts, with more mediation and Tai Chi planned for 2022, we hope to be able to help people find some peace after the challenges we have had to endure and the new ones ahead of us.
We are lucky to have the Okehampton Men in Sheds as our neighbours, as we help one another grow through our community connections. A lovely lady, Michelle, who does some fundraising for the Men in Sheds, kindly knocked on our door and offered to help us make the community garden more child friendly. We have families come to help in the garden, but it didn’t take long before the children began to get bored, and mum and dad would have to leave. We can now boast to having the only outdoor sandpit in Okehampton.
Michelle also started ‘Who let the Dads out?’ in Okehampton. The group were very keen to have a space where they could grow their own produce. The community garden is a lovely safe space for children to just mess about making mud pies and sandcastles. We have created raised beds in the garden for the group to enjoy growing food together, connecting their children actively to nature.
The children have had a really lovely time in the garden throughout the summer. From mud pies to den building, veg growing to creating frogs, they asked us if we are a member of the Children’s University and were excited to join in with more activities. We are now signed up with the Children’s University and plan to start a children’s gardening club in March 2022.
We hadn’t quite taken delivery of all the garden upgrades before the winter arrived. It seems a shame to get mud on the magical mud kitchen! The snug was just too cute to resist. Having teamed up with Who let the Dads out?, we can use some of their outdoor toys whenever children come along to the garden, these tractors look great!
Since 2019 we have been hosting outdoor Tai Chi with Forest Chi, the financial support through Active Devon’s Connecting Actively with Nature programme helped us get this off the ground. As the changes came along in 2020 so did the demand for outdoor well-being activities. Pretty soon we were working with other well-being groups, such as, Okehampton Community Wellbeing, Meditations in Nature and other individual instructors covering drumming workshops and sound bath meditations as well crystal healing workshops.
Drumming Circle with Rowena Hillier of The Oak Therapy Room
Drumming has a long history in ceremonies and rituals, but more recent research indicates that drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system, produces feelings of well-being, and helps release emotional trauma. Drumming also induces deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress.
At the community garden we now hold monthly, full moon drumming sessions around a small fire pit. Anyone is welcome to come along and join in, we have spare drums for people to borrow.
Storytelling with katy cawkwell of artemis
Katy offered to come along and do two shows in the community garden at the end of June. Katy was a warm reminder of the lost art of storytelling, everyone loved her show.
The beginning of February didn’t just bring the great news about the funding from the lottery, it also brought blue skies and sunshine. Volunteers came along to help us dispose of rickety old sheds, extending the polytunnel as well as other jobs around the garden.
The garden is run by volunteers and mainly funded by small grants from Okehampton Hamlets Parish Council, Okehampton Town Council, Okehampton Rotary, Okehampton Untied Charity, West Devon Brough Council and Devon County Council. As soon as regulations changed we started organising volunteers, keen to get out and do something after a long winter lockdown, especially with the sun shining.
A group helped extend the polytunnel and get a new cover on it. We also put down a membrane to help keep the weeds at bay.
We have been in need of a decent compost area within the garden for a long time. The next project was to erect 3 compost bays with a dry store at the end.
It was time to make the signs next to the entrance a little more secure and make room for a notice board underneath the community garden sign. Still a work in progress. We also had some funding to add a porch to the shed, mainly to help reduce water ingress around the front doors. We put trellis up for plants to grow up and have planted evergreen clematis and honeysuckle. It’s going to look magnificent when the plants have got established. And we thought we would give the shed a coat of Ronseal, it all looks quite smart.
The community garden is now in its 10th year and some of our facilities needed a bit of an upgrade. The space is now used in many different ways, we have regular campfire evenings, Outdoor Tai Chi and more recently, meditation sessions. Our neighbours are a pretty busy Men in Sheds group and so we wanted to create a private little Idaho for our well-being sessions.
This was going to be quite a big and expensive job. We applied to the National Lottery’s Local Connections fund to help us upgrade our facilities and create a beautiful space for our well-being sessions. Early in February we received the fantastic news that we had been awarded the grant. All work had to be completed by the end of March! In normal circumstances this would have been a breeze, but we had a few supply challenges to overcome, but we made it!
After a few discussions we realised that the best solution to deal with a problem area within the garden was to have some of the top ‘soil’ scraped off, in an area approx. 500m2, and this soil/sawdust/weeds mix was used to create a bank. We plan to keep the bank looking pretty wild, mixing up things like geranium, corn flower, ferns and primroses in with wild flowers like poppies and pink campion. We have also added a few trees for stability.
The first job was to take down the old toilet shed. This had been propped up with posts for the past 5 years.The posts were starting to rot and various sections of the shed were rotten.
The flower bed took shape after the pile of woodchip had been used up around the garden. The woodchip had been in a pile for two years so the weeds would be under control and so we decided to throw together a flower bed. People offered us plants until the flower bed was overflowing.
I think you’ll agree the style is slightly boho but it works. It is a small haven within the garden to attract pollinating insects.