Our local fire station is just down the road from us ~ near enough when we first moved here for me to jump out of my skin every time a fire engine sped by with sirens shrieking. I have become immune over the years and now take the noise in my stride. Although I have walked past the station many times, en route to the allotment, I had never visited it until last month. I had read about a project to establish a community and biodiversity garden there some time ago and an open afternoon at the fire station proved the ideal time to find out more.
The project was the concept of one of the fire fighters based at the station and was formally opened last year. On what was previously an uncultivated grassed over area at the back of the fire station, there are now raised beds, a greenhouse, a wooden shed, a 'bug hotel' type bird feeder, wildflower garden area, compost heaps as well as decked seating and a meeting area. There is an interconnecting network of fully accessible pathways.
"The aim of the garden is twofold, to provide an access project for the general community and to act as an access and diversionary project for young people at risk of becoming involved with arson or anti -social behavior." The garden was constructed in partnership with a number of different community groups working alongside fire fighters. We have recently been overwhelmed with images and reports of young people caught up in the riots but here I saw a positive measurement of what young people can achieve given encouragement, support and the wherewithal. Having worked with disaffected young people for a long time, I know that sadly many of them, especially young men, leave our secondary school system with low self esteem and low expectations. Projects such as this are great ways of harnessing energy, providing invaluable work experience, developing team building and communication skills and in some cases completely transforming young lives.
Once the hard build was finished eight of the raised beds are now being cultivated by local primary schools. Each school has grown exactly the same crops in their beds so there is a element of healthy competition. When I visited the beds were filling out with their crops of runner beans, peas, carrots, beetroots, onions and spring onions. Regularly on hand to assist the project has the assistance of an experienced local allotmenteer as a 'Garden Manager'. Other groups including a local Mencap youth club are involved in the garden. After a good wander round and chat with those behind the concept, I left feeling really excited about this project and hope to pop down in the spring with spare seeds etc.
'Out on The Streets' is a regular feature over at 'Vegplotting', where if you would like to particpate Michelle advises that "All you need to do is post on your blog an example of public planting or use of outdoor public space which has taken your notice this month. It may be good or bad ; old or new, in your neighbourhood or something you've seen on your travels." Do make your way over there and join in the street party too!