Community gardens flourish in North East
published on 11 Jul 2022
Community gardens are providing spiritual, mental and physical respite for people in Horden and Cramlington, thanks to The Salvation Army.
Outdoor spaces have been transformed offering the opportunity for the community to grow veggies, learn new skills, form friendships or just sit quietly and reflect.
At Horden Salvation Army in Dene Street, the garden is flourishing after it received funding from Tesco a couple of years ago. It is now being financially supported by local agencies so remains free for the community to use.
Angela Huntington, Community Mission Facilitator at Horden, said: “My vision was to get as many people involved in creating and maintaining the community garden as possible as I want it to be somewhere they are proud of. If they do the work, they can reap the rewards.
“Everything we have done, from the planting to the carving of the benches to the laying of the patio, has been done by the volunteers with professionals teaching them. We are now offering a level one gardening qualification with an outside agency coming to teach them.
“We have different zones – a wild garden, an orchard, a peace garden and a rose garden. We grow our own fruit and we’re linked with another community venture, Hub House, where our volunteers grow vegetables and bring them back for us to cook or they can take them home, so they get healthy home grown food out of this as well.”
Angela thinks they have had about 100 people helping or using the garden, including volunteers, scouting groups, parent and toddler groups, with a regular attendance of about 20 people.
Organisations offering mental health support or debt advice, can also meet people there in a relaxed environment.
Angela continued: “People like to be outside socialising, working, meeting new people and creating friendships and bonds. Even if people do not want to garden, they will come and make cups of tea for the volunteers.
“They get to learn about The Salvation Army as a church and charity, and that we are there to support them if they have any other needs. A few members have started coming to worship on a Sunday through the gardening club.
“The carvings include quotes from the Bible and inspiring messages. The idea is that God works everywhere, not just inside a church building.”
Also in full bloom is the William Booth Community Garden at Cramlington Salvation Army, Cramond Way, which has focused on being an accessible space for all after the transformation of some waste ground a few years ago. Groups are also able to use the space and can donate towards its upkeep.
Territorial Envoy Susan Younger said: “People love to come and sit here quietly and enjoy it, others come along and do a bit of gardening. They say that it’s so peaceful and tranquil, like being in a totally different place. There are a lot of flats nearby so especially during lockdown when people didn’t have access to outside space, this was invaluable.
“It’s got a grassy area for the toddlers and a gate so they can run around safely. Brownies, Rainbows and Guides also use it for some of their training like putting tents up. The kids love it and call it ‘the secret garden’ because it’s hidden away behind our car park.
“We’re also creating a sensory flower area, one with herbs so that the children can enjoy the smells and identifying them. They have also planted sunflower seeds which we will transfer to the garden and painted stones with messages on them. The kids love going round and spotting them and reading the messages.
“We wanted an area available for everybody, so we went for extra wide paving stones for wheelchairs and pushchairs and raised beds. We grow fruit and vegetables - potatoes and onions, cabbage and strawberries. We sell these during our charity shop and coffee morning each Thursday.
“There are also placards teaching God’s messages and flowers forming a cross.”
Susan is in the process of setting up a gardening club for people to join to help with its upkeep.
She added: “It will involve a bit of digging and cleaning, but not too much bending and stretching because of the design!”
One of The Salvation Army’s mission priorities is ‘Care for Creation’ encouraging a more responsible use of the environment as people will not experience fullness of life unless God’s creation is protected and cared for.