Feel Good Gardens values local food and community, getting outdoors, enjoying the seasons, understanding more about nature, and welcoming everybody to site regardless of age, gender, race or disability. Clare Heyting describes the project’s development and achievements to date.
“We rent a large (3.2 acre) site in North Nottinghamshire from the Forestry Commision where we garden organically and provide a place to go for people who are older, isolated or have physical disabilities, long term illnesses and mental health issues. This group of volunteers includes referrals from health and social services. We are noticing that service users with higher levels of need are being referred, which is challenging.
“We are also piloting 2 community allotments. The first one is in a deprived area of Mansfield. It was very overgrown. A group from the local community has worked to clear the site and start cultivation. Individuals with mental health needs are referred to the project. The second plot is used by a group of homeless people, including families, that are in temporary accommodation. The group meets once a week and we also hold social events. This provides relief from their cramped living conditions and acts as a ‘pressure valve’.
“We run weekly work parties at all the gardens where we work, cook and enjoy food togethere (usually that we have grown on the gardens).
“Some families enjoy it so much they keep coming after they have been rehoused. Being part of the project can ignite new passions and interests in people. One person started growing flowers and entered a local food and produce show. This gave her a huge sense of achievement and self-worth. She has now been rehoused but still comes to the project to grow flowers and vegetables, which she shares with her neighbours, helping her forge new firendships. Eating as part of a group has also helped her regain a healthy relationship with food and encouraged her children to try and eat new things.”
Finally, what do you value about being a member of SF&G?
“We really value being part of a network. We attended the Growing Well Together conference in Manchester in 2016 and found it really inspiring. It was great to meet with others in the sector and make contacts. It’s good to know there’s an overarching organisation with our interests at heart.”
Badgers Brook Allotment is in Brackla, Bridgend. It is a 40 plot site with ten disabled plots, three of which are used by organisations that support disabled people. Regenerated by the community and brought back from dereliction.
Chyan Community Field, an organic forest farm with community access, has been running since 2002. In that time, the group have transformed a disused, over-grown 2.2 acre Cornish field into a shining example of vegan organic growing, wildlife gardening, sustainable energy production and community involvement.