I just cannot imagine life without access to a garden. According to the Kings Fund Report (May 2016) 87% of households in the UK have a garden and in a typical city, one quarter comprises private gardens which make up half its green space. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/Gardens_and_health.pdf
I am not sure whether Norwich is in the category of a ‘typical city’ but it is here that I visited the Grapes Hill Community Garden and reaching it by walking up Valentine Street, my first glimpse was to look down over the fence.
Once a disused and unsightly area laid with tarmac, this now flourishing garden, all of 50m by 12m, was created by a group of people who came together in 2009. Consulting the local community on the design, and collectively raising funds, the following year they were granted National Lottery money which enabled removing the tarmac and laying the hard landscaping.
In 2011 the planting began and the garden was opened to the public in July of that year. You can read more about the development from the website from where I have borrowed the above and below photographs: http://grapeshillcommunitygarden.org/pages/
With such a warm invitation at the gates it is hard not to pop in.
A bold wooden pergola greets you as you enter. The uprights appear a little naked right now but a wisteria is taking a hold, recklessly winding its way up,
and on another post is a more controlled vine; appropriately planted considering this is Grapes Hill, it will soon burst into leaf and it is one of the many plants sponsored by local people and businesses.
At the base of the pillars, tulips and primroses soften the brickwork and bring a touch of spring colour.
These beautifully raised beds are available to rent.
The garden is also used as a teaching area – a free AQA Level 1 Gardening course running for 10 weeks is being offered. In this bed the different types of bulbs are being displayed, the red tulips are determined to be the biggest.
This is not just a place to learn and work; there is a seating area with a verdant lawn beyond to pick daisies.
In fact Jo the Head Gardener encourages visitors to pick and enjoy the leaves of herbs such as the lemon balm,
and as she chats to me she rubs the evergreen leaves of the architectural honey bush Melianthus major and it exudes a waft of peanut butter.
There are several fruit trees growing in the garden either planted on the trellis surrounding parts of the garden,
or free standing like this magical Quince Cydonia oblonga. Donated by local nurseries their blossom somehow brings a ray of hope.
In such a small space there is a lot going on; a joyful mosaic rises up against the wall,
and a trellis of seed heads collected and created by a group of children.
This tree trunk has been transformed into a fountain, not switched on today, but powered by solar energy.
At this point I have to mention the loo. It is a public garden so a real necessity; imaginatively planted as it is, there is no denying that it is an unsightly “tardis” but it is shortly to be replaced by a WooWooWaterlessComposting Toilet; intriguing, just take a look – //www.waterlesstoilets.co.uk/
Back to less flushing matters, and across is the busy greenhouse packed with all sorts of emerging goodies it stands next to the growing area, and this in part is the reason for my visit.
I was there to present a tiny plaque to Head Gardener Jo and volunteers on behalf of the National Garden Scheme.
They had applied for funding from the Elspeth Thompson Bursary which, in partnership with the RHS, is an annual bursary that supports gardening projects.
Elspeth Thompson was a garden writer who died in 2010. She was an enthusiastic supporter of the National Garden Scheme and wrote a much-loved Urban Gardener column in The Sunday Telegraph. She was passionate about community gardens and so, in her memory, The Elspeth Thompson Bursary was created to support gardening projects aimed at bringing the community together by the sharing and acquiring horticultural knowledge and skills, and by inspiring a love of gardening across all age groups.
I have no doubt she would have been delighted with this amazing community garden.
If you know of a community project in need of funds why not apply for a bursary: https://www.ngs.org.uk/who-we-are/bursaries/