40 years, 40 stories

News item first posted on: 23/01/20


As part of our 40th Anniversary, we are celebrating the breadth, variety and impact of our incredible members through sharing 40 stories with a different theme each month. 

Our first story comes from Scotswood Natural Community Garden. As the UK readies itself for the Big Garden Birdwatch 2020 this weekend, our theme for January is Wildlife gardening and encouraging biodiversity. 

Social Farms & Gardens interviews Sean Clay about how their site (amongst many wonderful things), encourages wildlife gardening and biodiversity.

Name of organisation: Scotswood Natural Community Garden

Region: North East 

Founded/started on site: 1995 

Member since: 2003

Link to member profile: click here

Scotswood's story

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.

Visit scotswoodgarden.org.uk to find out more about this fantastic space.

Finally, what do you value about being a member of Social Farms & Gardens? 

"Being part of a network" and "Access to information, advice and training". “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"