As part of our Amber Valley Community Champions Work, Community Interest Company Grow Outside from Ripley has written us a guest blog.
At Grow Outside CIC we are passionate about the healing effect of nature and run a variety of activities to get people of all ages and abilities outdoors gardening, relaxing, exploring and being creative. We find that as people engage more and more with the outdoors they build a relationship with nature and feel it’s their place to care for it. We support people at all stages of their nature journey, from their first steps outdoors to showing them how to create their own wildlife and horticultural havens. Up until last year we travelled around Derbyshire leading pop-up gardening and outdoor wellbeing activities at a range of venues. We still work at locations across the county and city, but over the last year we have been busy settling into our very own garden home at Midland Railway Trust’s Butterley Station in Ripley, Derbyshire.
Creating a new community garden
A lot of work has been going on at the new community garden over the last few months. The site was uneven and overgrown when we first gained access, and a chunk of time was spent clearing the site and making a lovely blank canvas ready to start building a beautiful, productive, accessible garden. We are keen for the local community to get involved and welcome ideas and helping hands at all stages of garden development. A huge thank you to those who have helped us already, we couldn’t do it without you!
We use organic and environmentally sustainable methods throughout the garden, reuse as much as possible, and ensure we work with nature to make the site beneficial for wildlife as well as people. Our aim is to create a garden to show others how they can have their own wonderful green retreats (whether that’s a window-ledge or a large garden) to benefit human wellbeing, but also all the other plants and animals who could call it home.
Connecting people outdoors
Along with showing people how they can support nature, we also run programmes to demonstrate what nature can do for people. We have been able to open up the garden to provide a safe, sociable space at a time when people have felt particularly isolated and anxious during the pandemic. Since last summer we have hosted three wellbeing programmes, and have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback we have received. We ensure programmes are suited to the group of participants who come along and include activities such as gardening, nature crafts and mindful self-care activities. We provide breathing space, and stepping stones to gently help people get outside at their own pace, in a safe no-pressure environment.
One of our first programmes was for a group of unpaid carers who loved having a welcoming space to meet others who understand what they are going through. It became clear that the social element was vital for their enjoyment of the sessions. Having a sheltered outside space meant that the group could meet together safely, despite COVID, and enjoy a chat over a cuppa and mindful activity. Their comments about what they loved during their time in the garden included:
- “It helped to free my mind”
- “It helped my isolation”
- “Being with people that understand”
- “Being in a calming, safe space”
- “A good sense of community”
- “Good conversation”
- “Time to forget my troubles”
Enabling people to see their value
We have also run wellbeing and nature connection sessions for those living with long term health conditions. It has been very rewarding to support people to find ways that they can engage with nature when they thought it was something that was out of reach for them. We believe that nature is for everyone and we aim to make our sessions as accessible as we can. One of our group members commented:
“It’s helped me get more interested in life again, I’ve gone off and done things I didn’t feel well enough to do before, it’s helped me to see the knowledge and skills that I have, it’s reminded me who I am.”
After finishing the wellbeing programme, this participant went on to volunteer as a ‘buddy’ during our next round of sessions, helping people to feel welcome and comfortable and supporting the activities. Another participant also enjoyed spending time in the garden so much that she became a volunteer ‘buddy’ with us too. She says:
“The garden is a place of healing, a waypoint in the week where I know I’m going to be OK and feel better.”
We are delighted that people feel so welcomed and at home in our garden that they just want to keep coming back. We have lots of opportunities to volunteer with us, in the garden or on our programmes, so contact us to see how you can use your time or skills to help build our beautiful community space.
Over winter we have been taking the time to make further improvements to the garden, including adding hardstanding, a seating area to enjoy the views over Butterley Reservoir and installing rainwater harvesting systems. We are excited to have received funding from Severn Trent’s Community Fund to install a range of sustainability features – from composting to a living roof – and will be busy bringing these ideas to life over the coming months. During this growing season, we will be hosting community days to showcase new garden elements, and also running a monthly course focusing on environmentally sustainable gardening techniques. This will be open for anyone to attend free of charge. If you or someone you know would be interested in taking part, drop us an email or keep an eye on our Facebook, Instagram or webpage for upcoming dates and times.
We could not achieve any of this without our wonderful supporters and we want to create this garden with, and for, our community. That includes you! We would love for you to become part of Grow Outside CIC and come and enjoy our outdoor haven in the heart of Amber Valley. Get in touch to see how you can get involved! Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07960 249816