The Wonky Garden

Halton, Cheshire

Your story

The Wonky Garden is a Community Volunteering Initiative to 'Sow, Grow and Go!'

We identify unused green spaces and, together with local volunteers, transform them into vibrant community gardens with abundant flowers, fruit and vegetables, complete with contemplation/sensory areas for relaxation.

Group introduction

We are a new and exciting 'not for profit' organisation which is in its infancy, having only been formally constituted in May 2017.

The Wonky Garden has been formed by three friends, who met through a fantastic wellbeing activity for people experiencing life changing illnesses, in our case, Cancer. We come from very different backgrounds, but together developed The Wonky Garden concept to ‘give something back’ to the local community.

The aim of The Wonky Gardens is not perfection, but more about:
• Providing opportunities for community involvement
• Preventing social isolation and combating loneliness
• Sharing knowledge and expertise
• Enriching school curriculum themes (including science, maths, geography, art, languages)
• Improving physical health and mental wellbeing
• Building life skills (confidence, teamwork, communication)
• Bringing together different generations of volunteers to engage in their surroundings and develop a closer community (including people with physical and mental health issues)
• Having fun and...
Together creating ‘The Wonky Garden’.

Our Wonky Gardens will provide shared open spaces, a place to enjoy new company and to grow food and flowers, as well as creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy and education.

Produce will be sold locally, with proceeds being reinvested in the project and any excess funds being allocated within each group for them to spend on additional health and well-being activities of their choice.

We already have great spaces confirmed at the following locations:
• Halton Farnworth Hornets A.R.L.F.C. - Widnes
• Moorfield Primary School - Widnes
• Grangeway Youth & Community Centre - Runcorn

These preliminary sites will enable us to prove the concept and address any start-up challenges which may, or may not, arise! We will then identify additional sites to replicate this model on both sides of Halton – and beyond!

Volunteers are critical to our success and will form an integral part of the project and will help with site design, construction, sowing, growing, harvesting and selling. Anyone can attend, no matter how young or old, how much or how little they know about gardening and we will welcome visitors that simply want to enjoy the company and have a chat.

We’ll provide year-round educational sessions, for volunteers, to generate and maintain interest. We will have access to meeting rooms on site, so we can have expert/enthusiastic speakers to hold fun design workshops, explain how to plan and grow food groups, basics of flower arranging and cookery classes.

How would this funding have an impact on your community?

We need funding to actively recruit local volunteers through flyers, word of mouth and provide the materials to transform the spaces into community gardens.

Our volunteers will help design and create an inviting, welcoming space for residents to ‘sow, grow and go’ fruit, vegetables and flowers.

We would like to encourage residents to come along to the different sites, have a look around and we’ll be on hand to help them get growing! We will arrange regular weekly activities to bring everyone together at each site as well as facilitating local school gardening/well-being curriculum activities and after school garden clubs.

At Grangeway we will support a new Community Centre Café through the growing and harvesting of fruit, vegetables and herbs to use in the café.

To provide the basic structures for the gardens we are seeking funding to purchase the following:
o Timber to create raised beds and compost areas
o Ground netting/bark/flags
o Site signage
o Small and large poly tunnels/horticultural fleece
o Garden tools/equipment including hoses/watering cans
o Trees/bushes/plants/seeds/bulbs
o Trays/Pots/Twine/Canes/Labels
o Provision and installation of outside taps
o Benches/tables/chairs
o Tool stores
o First Aid Kits

We are working with Widnes-based WSR Recycling, who have kindly agreed to ‘gift’ us the machinery and manpower to clear all Wonky Garden sites in preparation for our raised beds and a large amount of free compost!

The benefits of Community Gardens include:
• An increased sense of community ownership and fostering the development of a community identity and spirit.
• Bringing people together from a wide variety of backgrounds (age, race, culture, social class).
• Building community leaders and offering a focal point for community organising, which can help deal with other social concerns.
• Providing opportunities to simply meet neighbours and assist with crime prevention.
• Providing opportunities for new immigrants (who tend to be concentrated in low-income urban communities) to:
- Produce traditional crops otherwise unavailable locally,
- Provide inter-generational exposure to cultural traditions,
- Offer a cultural exchange with other gardeners
• Allowing people from diverse backgrounds to work side-by-side on common goals without speaking the same language.
• Offering unique opportunities to teach young people about:
- Where food comes from
- Practical English, Science and Maths skills
- The importance of community cohesion
- Job and life skills
- Different healthy, inexpensive activities for young people to interact socially with others
• Allowing families and individuals without land of their own the opportunity to produce food.
• Providing access to nutritionally rich foods that may otherwise be unavailable to low-income families and individuals.
• Studies show that community gardeners and their children eat healthier diets than do non-gardening families.
• Exposure to green space reduces stress and increases a sense of wellness and belonging.
• Providing much needed green space in lower-income neighbourhoods, which typically have access to less green space than other parts of the community.

We hope, once established, the project will be self-sustaining and we are very encouraged by the positive response we have received as a result of our early enquiries!

""We would like to work with local volunteers to design, create and nurture vibrant community spaces with an abundance of flowers, fruit and vegetables together with sensory areas for relaxation.
We are very grateful for the support of local businesses, such as Skipton Building Society through the Grassroots Giving scheme, which will enable us to provide seeds, plants, building materials and tools to make ideas reality!"
Sue Hulme - Founder and Secretary"

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