The Fallowfield Secret Garden
The Fallowfield Secret Garden is a volunteer-led, urban permaculture project which aims to develop a beautiful place for the local community to meet, eat, learn and play. The project was set up in January 2011 and since then has grown from strength to strength through the support of volunteers and neighbors. The land, hidden away in the middle of a block of houses, has been transformed from an overgrown wasteland to a thriving community space which includes a vegetable growing area, kid’s forest play area, wildlife pond, orchard and a wooden roundhouse.
Who we are/our set up: The garden is run by a small group of about 10-15 dedicated volunteers who give a significant amount of time every week to work at the garden making sure it is open for visitors and volunteers. The garden is open all year round for at least 3 days per week. Members of this core group divide the responsibilities for leading the different projects onsite, running activities/events with overarching responsibilities including communications and volunteer coordination.
We are an unincorporated association with a Board comprising a Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. Decisions are made by consensus in meetings of all the members, or decision-making being devolved to working groups with specific responsibilities. The Secret Garden has been in development for just over eight and a half years. We are now at the stage of undertaking the major landscaping and planting design that will bring the garden to a near completed state ready for running a fuller program of activities and hosting sessions for partnership organisations. The different complementary elements of the garden are designed to provide habitats for animals and plants, while at the same time creating outdoor spaces for local people to use and explore. We hope that this interaction will inspire our visitors to learn about permaculture and native wildlife in an informal setting. We will be providing gardening sessions for local people to show them how they can make their gardens more welcoming to birds and other small wildlife, and support them in selecting, propagating and growing suitable native species in their own gardens. In order to design and deliver the learning sessions, we are encouraging our key volunteers to attend relevant training to build their skills in managing volunteers, designing training and facilitating learning sessions. In response to the need for children to have more opportunities for outdoor, self-directed play, we have started to landscape a children’s forest area. We run a weekly toddlers’ group throughout the year, and a monthly family day, both of which are well attended by families from across South Manchester.
Who uses the garden: We have visitors and volunteers from across South Manchester and from a diverse range of backgrounds – and we plan to increase this once the site is in a more finished state. Neighbours from the nearby local community attend in high numbers at our large public events, such as Summer Solstice and Bonfire Night, as well as visiting as individuals to use the garden for socialising or helping with gardening. Our popular weekly toddler group attracts up to 20 families per session from across South Manchester, with older children from neighboring houses who visit independently throughout the summer. We work with youth volunteer groups from Princes Trust, Challenge Network and the universities; we are very popular with University of Manchester students undertaking the Manchester Leadership Program. Increasingly we also have many corporate volunteers who come for our CSR days.
Our aims: A central part of what we do is to share knowledge of permaculture and urban food growing. We already have vegetable beds set up, and we want to extend this to offer structured