Scotswood Garden works with nature to create a great place for people and wildlife to enjoy. The garden is about community, whether in Scotswood and Benwell or the wider area, and they welcome people of all ages and backgrounds to get involved in the work.
We visited Scotswood on a chilly January day as part of our Dobies training programme – we’d come to see how volunteers can stay engaged with a space even in deepest darkest winter so the weather was apt! Sean Clay, Garden Manager, took us on a guided tour around the 2.5 acre space.The first thing you notice about the garden is the bird song – it’s deafening, and we’re in the centre of Newcastle!
The garden aims for a ‘managed wildness’ approach so one of Sean’s jobs is to explain why piles of sticks and leaves aren’t “tidied up”, but it’s all paying off and the garden is a haven for wildlife. Wild areas provide habitats for hedgehogs, bats, numerous bird species, great crested newts, a fox and too many rabbits! There are many trees including alder, walnuts, hazels, yews, scots pines, rowans and abundant fruit trees. The fruits are harvested and made into chutneys and juices which are available to purchase.
The two ponds are home to all three British newt species: great crested; smooth, and palmate. It is rare to find all three together. A new accessible garden with moveable and raised beds as well as a compost toilet is opening up the garden to new users. While the small, and fairly new, vegetable growing space uses no-dig principles to produce abundance and Sean proudly shows us the compost sausage. Involving the local community is integral to Scotswood’s activity so their work is divided into five strands to ensure maximum engagement.
These are youth work, education & forest schools, older people’s services, adult volunteering and community outreach.A garden takes time to become established and Scotswood is a mature space that’s been around for 25 years. It is now a designated local wildlife site.
Finally, what do you value about being a member of Social Farms & Gardens?
“It’s great to be part of a wider network to share and learn from others doing similar fantastic work. We can all learn from each other."
Green Isle Growers, based in Machynlleth in Mid Wales, is thriving with help from Social Farms & Gardens (previously Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens), which has given funding advice, held a visioning session for future growth and arranged a site visit to another SF&G member.
TheHorseCourse is a busy Equine-Assisted Interventions Centre based on an ex-dairy farm in Weymouth. Harriet Laurie, founder, explains what TheHorseCourse offers people who are struggling and for whom other more mainstream therapeutic approaches may not be working.