2022 has been a year of positive transformation and achievement, thanks to our wonderful volunteers and supporters, who have freely shared their skills, encouragement, enthusiasm, creativity and friendship throughout the year.
Just 12 months ago, the Old North Stables community garden was reborn as Worcester community garden. In April 2022 we became a registered charity, with three founding trustees – Steve Dent, Tony Kennell and Jon Bodenham – who were joined in June by a fourth trustee, Mandy Neill.
The trustees set themselves five key priorities in 2022:
- increasing volunteer numbers, and improved retention of volunteers;
- improved engagement with the wider community;
- raising funds for much needed improvements and developments on the community garden site;
- running a series of educational events;
- giving greater responsibility to our regular volunteers.
Huge progress has been made on each of these objectives.
A new system of logging in and out for volunteers means we know we that had over 1,400 volunteer daily visits by the end of 2022, contributing over 4,000 hours of work. This compares with 101 volunteer daily visits in 2021. We also enjoyed around 3,000 visitors in 2022.
In terms of greater engagement with the wider community, early in 2022 we entered into a formal arrangement with Mencap through which we provide several of their learners, guided by a Mencap support worker, with work experience and learning opportunities. This arrangement has worked really well, and we have worked with some wonderful young men and women through this scheme.
We have been delighted to host a weekly NHS art therapy class during the summer months. Throughout the year we have also been able to accept individual referrals from the NHS and from OnSide, a mental health charity. Young men and women from the National Civilian Service joined us for a great day of volunteering back in June, and we hope to welcome them back in 2023. We have also hosted visits from various other groups including the Cathedral Eco Group, the University of the Third Age and Worcester Green Party.
Over the course of the year, we secured over £20,000 in grant funding. Some of this has gone towards the development of our new “small garden” projects on the site, but the majority has supported an ambitious project to build a giant pontoon with floating office and tool store, which will in future help protect vital equipment from flood damage. The pontoon is already in place, having replaced the old tool and wood store. A new, integrated office and tool store is being built off site, and we expect it to be installed on the pontoon in early February. A separate woodstore will be built adjacent to the pontoon.
During 2022 we staged 8 teaching events including beekeeping, natural dye making, a bug hunt, pruning, grafting, and Christmas wreath making. A new programme of events is planned for 2023, which will also include an “Open Day” at the community garden.
The development of our seven new “small garden” areas on site has undoubtedly helped attract visitors, but equally importantly it has given regular volunteers more responsibility and the opportunity to become more closely involved in the running of the community garden.
We have no doubt that there are so many more ideas and developments to come from our amazing volunteers, who have invested so much in terms of time, skills, energy and creativity towards the gentle evolution of this delightful community garden. We are enormously grateful to each and every one of you.
Whether you are one of our regular or occasional volunteers, someone interested in volunteering with us, or a supporter, you are invited to join us for our volunteer event at 10.30 on 21 January 2023 at the Pump House Environment Centre, Waterworks Road WR1 3EZ. This will provide an opportunity to look back at the things we did well in 2022, as well as those we could improve on, and to help plan and shape what we do in 2023. We hope to see you there!
With best wishes for 2023
Tony, Jon, Steve and Mandy