Creating good health through community gardens

Local food and good mental health are produced at Bradford on Avon by this new initiative on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

Dean at Bradford on Avon Dean at Bradford on Avon

A scrubby patch of land next to the car park in Bradford on Avon is being transformed into a community garden with fruit trees and a bank of wildflowers that will attract bees.

The site is one of several community gardens that Canal & River Trust is creating along the Kennet & Avon Canal under the Community Gardens Project, which is being run in partnership with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (WWT).

Other sites include Diamond Jubilee Wood next to Caen Hill Lock Flight in Devizes, Pewsey Wharf and Great Bedwyn.

Grazing garden

"At Bradford, a diseased horse chestnut tree had to be cut down, leaving an empty green space. We thought we would use it for fruit trees so that canal users and Bradford residents could pick an apple or chomp on a cherry when they visit the waterway," says development and engagement manager, Caroline Robson. "For that reason, we are calling it a ‘grazing garden’. We are also tidying up the geology garden and planting hazel into the hedge around it."

The work falls under the auspices of WWT’s Milestones Project, which aims to connect vulnerable and marginalised young people with local nature. In this case the garden was planted by members of Community Payback, a scheme whereby offenders give unpaid hours of work to pay back the community for their crimes.

Nature and mental health

"We know that time spent in nature is crucial for good mental health and physical wellbeing," says WWT Senior Project Officer, Dean Sherwin.

"Those on the scheme are widening their knowledge and appreciation of local green spaces. They are also carrying out practical activities that improve their skills, so they can get accreditation with a better chance of employability."

So far, apple, pear, plum and cherry trees have been planted and in the autumn a hedge of currants will be added.

The plan is to do one garden a year over five years. Dean says: "We provide the trees and manpower to get it off the ground in the expectation that volunteers will look after it long term. Community gardens are great for drawing communities together, with opportunities for learning and gentle exercise."

At Jubilee Wood one of the gardens has already been planted with a small orchard of traditional variety fruits and raised beds full of herbs.

Local food

"The gardens are a great way to link the community to local food, cutting out food miles and encouraging people to get involved with nature. By using heritage fruit species, we are, in a small way, helping their survival, as well as providing space for wildlife," says Caroline.

Bradford on Avon Trust volunteer, Deborah Wray said: "Everyone I’ve spoken to about the garden has been really positive about it. The general feeling is that the site is already looking much improved."

The Milestones project is one of 31 Our Bright Future projects across the country. Each one is equipping 11-24-year-olds to make a difference in their local community and for the environment. Our Bright Future is a £33 million programme funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund.

Big Lottery Fund our Bright Future

Last date edited: 5 June 2018