Blue skies and sunshine brings explosion of activity around the garden

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.

A great start to the year!

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.

A top layer of weeds and sawdust being scrapped off ready for grass seed to go down. The bank will remain pretty wild but there will be some bits colour added. We have hedging to be planted along the fence-line of willow and dog wood, along with wild roses. The ground is now flat, making it better for activities, such as Tai Chi. The bank and new hedge will offer privacy for participants.

A Chilly Day in April

The community garden involves people from all different backgrounds

We have involved teenagers undertaking their voluntary work as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Gold AwardIMG_1276

We have had a lovely gentleman, Roy, who came to the garden this year and has become quite a presence in the garden. He built a structure under which he grew broad beans, peas, onions, kale, beetroot and runner beans.

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We also have a small group, funded by Learn Devon, who come up and help school children plant some vegetables

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New year, new gang

new-hope

A milestone had been reached and a whole new group of people popped up and started helping out in the garden.

With a new team forming there was a burst of activity in the garden.

 

The lads cleared a pile of gravel to make way for the rescued sensory garden created by the Prince’s Trust gang.  It enabled us to clear away the overgrown grass and weeds at the entrance, using up the gravel and the start of making the community garden more welcoming and vibrant.

 

It’s difficult to see in the first picture that there is indeed a herb wheel!  The lads dug it up and salvaged what they could of the original frame.   One of our community gardening days saw the compost pile being put to good use as the herb wheel came into action.

 

The entrance to the garden looks much more vibrant and as a result we don’t get people dropping off rubbish, fly-tipping in the entrance.

 

The progress…changes and challenges

The steering committee came up against various obstacles.  As any community led project knows there are always life events that result in people having to withdraw from any project and the community garden has seen it’s fair share of changes in the short time it has been running.

In 2014 the committee lost 3 or 4 key members for various personal reasons.  It was down to a skeleton crew of 4, on a good day…there was a fear that the project may have to be abandoned.

The wonderful thing about a great project, such as the community garden, is that someone always pops up to to rescue it.  And in June 2014 a new Chairperson was appointed and a new wave of engagement followed.

Certain areas had become overgrown and neglect was evident everywhere.  Slowly but surely the garden would be brought back into use.

The Children’s Area 

The first area to be brought back into use was the children’s area.  There was a lot of work to do, the tyres had become full of docks and dandelions, everywhere else was covered in plantain and daisies.  A lot of backbreaking work later and the area had a new lease of life with new plants planted in the tyres by our younger members.

 

 

The Polytunnel

The polytunnel was an exciting little project.  This was undertaken in two parts. Unfortunately it was a bit of a dull, wet day the day the frame was erected.  After some head scratching the frame went up.  The committee saw another wave of change and it took several weeks before we were able to get a crew together to put on the cover.  The weather was a complete contrast to the first part of the job, it was a baking hot day, even at 4pm it remained blisteringly hot, we became concerned that no-one was actually going to show up to help.  Slowly our fears were laid to rest as people popped in and did their bit to help.  There was a real buzz in the air as everyone mucked in.