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National Allotment Week

Darwen gardening group supports local community this National Allotment Week

Whitehall Park Supporters Group in Darwen have been able to support more local people during lockdown after receiving funding from Newground Together, part of Together Housing Group. 

Monday 10th August 2020 is the start of National Allotments Week and the theme this year is Growing Food for Health and Wellbeing. Thanks to a grant from Newground Together, the Whitehall Park Supporters have been able to support more people in the local community as well as promote the benefits of gardening on your wellbeing.

Originally, a section of the park which had been unused and overgrown was cultivated in order to grow and provide a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for the members of the gardening club and the local community. Now, with the grant, the garden has more than doubled in size! 

The Community Grant of £500 helped the group excavate nearby land which was untended and overgrown. They also used the grant to buy high visibility jackets with the group name on so people in the park can see who they are. 

The group had hoped to run a series of community events, but with lockdown they had to be cancelled. Throughout lockdown the group still maintained the garden whilst following social distancing. They continued to share the produce with members of the club which include local families who have struggled to make ends meet in the local community. 

Marjan Wouda, Chair of the Whitehall Park Supporters Group, said: “During lockdown we have been working in smaller bubbles rather than one big group. We have always liked to share out the produce we grow amongst ourselves to celebrate our hard work, but we also think it is important to donate our fresh fruit and vegetables to those who need it most. It is great that now our garden has expanded we can share more of what we grow.” 

Pre-lockdown the group collaborated with Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Darwen Asylum Refugee Enterprise to support asylum seekers and people with mental health issues through the relaxing power of gardening. The group is proud to be open to all and actively encourages members to join from all backgrounds. By reaching out to asylum seekers, the group gives them an opportunity to meet more of the local community and find group support. This inclusive mindset has provided an opportunity to share cultural differences and learn more about the different people living in their local community. 

Marjan said: “Our project brings people together who would – without it- never have met and get to know each other. Working alongside each other, friendships are developed, cultures are exchanged and people feel connected with one-another. Members learn and exchange skills in gardening, cooking and construction. 

“The sense of wellbeing derived from the club is overwhelming: the joy of working outside, of contributing to our community and of having a sense of purpose gardening can also give much needed structure to your life as well as helping you appreciate the little things. It really is enjoyable to watch nature grow slowly over time and enjoy your hard work paying off – whether that is beautiful flowers or tasty fresh produce!” 

The Whitehall Park Supporters Group still have big hopes for the future. 

Marjan added: “We hope that once it is safe to do so we can meet as one big group again and continue to attract new members. We love the sense of fellowship and community the gardening group offers us. We also look forward to improving our skills in growing food organically and having a polytunnel to expand our gardening year and options!”

For more information about National Allotments Week you can visit: https://www.nsalg.org.uk/news-events-campaigns/national-allotments-week/

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