2022 a year of achievement, but plenty more to come in 2023

Worcester community garden held its first ever Annual General Meeting on 21 January 2023 at the Pump House. A total of 29 people attended.

Together, we looked back at some of the fantastic things we achieved together in 2022, but we also focused on what we wanted to achieve in 2023.

We started 2022 with a relaunch. The Old North Stables became Worcester community garden, with a new site banner, new logo and new strap line – “a great place to grow”.

We launched a monthly newsletter to keep volunteers and supporters updated with plans and activities on site. In April we became a registered charity, with Steve Dent (Chair), Tony Kennell and Jon Bodenham as founding trustees, to be joined in June by Mandy Neill.

A transformation of the community garden site saw the creation of seven “small garden” projects, designed to engage and inspire visitors to try some of the ideas at home.

Our social media presence was given greater priority and range. By the end of the year, we had increased our volunteer base hours fourteen fold and raised over £20,000 in grant funding. Our volunteers had helped implement several successful flood mitigation measures – building up soil levels on the orchard garden to better protect our fruit trees, building a bee pontoon and a larger pontoon for our new toolstore and office. Throughout the year we ran a number of successful teaching workshops, including pruning, grafting, beekeeping, making natural dyes from plants and Christmas wreath making.

Individual – and group – referrals were accepted and welcomed from several outside bodies working in the mental health field, including the NHS, Mencap and OnSide Advocacy. We enjoyed hosting a weekly NHS art therapy class during the warmer months.

Positive links were established with other organisations including the RSPB, Worcester Environmental Group, University of the Third Age, Sanctuary Housing, the National Civilian Service, the cathedral eco group and Worcestershire Wildlife Trust .

In short, 2022 was a year of great progress and achievement. In 2023 we want to build on that solid foundation.

The trustees shared their priority objectives for 2023 with the meeting. These are:

  • improve access to and within the community garden site
  • improve the “visitor experience” through improved signage, site leaflet, small garden champions, Open Day
  • develop opportunities for partnership working with relevant local groups such as Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, WEG, RSPB, DWT
  • improve learning and development opportunities on site through mentoring and assignment of roles and responsibilities such as site supervisor and small garden champion
  • maximise growing space on the main part of the site by refurbishing the donated greenhouses and repairing/replacing damaged raised beds

Many other great ideas came out of our small group workshops on the day. These included:

  • installing an on-site generator
  • creating an outdoor “living room”/safe space, with shade, easily accessible from the site entrance
  • hosting more workshops on site, including craftivism, “raised bed to vase” and jam/chutney making
  • building a hand washing station
  • giving more external talks to raise our profile
  • providing a menu of options for mentoring
  • better signposting of toilet access
  • providing a site diary to record experiences and jobs done
  • install a wind vane
  • use QR codes to provide more information on site
  • forge links for local businesses (offering advertising in exchange for materials)
  • provide volunteer viewpoints and before/after photos of projects for posting on social media
  • a better on-site “honesty box” for produce sales.

Following the AGM we also received a very generous donation of £100 from long-time supporter of the community garden, Marcus Sparrow.

Over the past year, the majority of our income has come from grants which are tied to very specific projects. One-off donations such as this one, as well as regular standing orders, allow us the flexibility to fund development projects that do not attract grant funding.

If you would like to set up a monthly standing order or make a donation to support us, no matter how small the amount, please contact us at [email protected].

The trustees hope to implement many of the great suggestions our volunteers proposed at the AGM, and we will report on progress throughout the year here on the website as well as in our monthly newsletter.

a message from Worcester community garden trustees

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

National lottery success!

We’re thrilled to have been awarded £10,000 from the national lottery community awards.

The funds will be used to build a floating pontoon to house a new tool storage area. This will protect much of the garden’s resources from the regular flooding experienced each winter.

We are extremely grateful to Keith Slater (pictured, centre) of Community Boost who worked with the community garden’s chair of trustees, Steve Dent, on the bid, providing his time, advice and expertise to help us secure this funding.

Keith himself said of the community garden “no doubt in my mind that this oasis of peace and tranquillity is a hidden jewel in the city and is a first rate example of the work that committed and dedicated volunteers can produce”.

Keith is now working with Steve to draft a bid for a further £5k grant. If successful, this funding will be used to build an office/meeting room that will sit in front of the tool storage area on the pontoon, together with a moveable access ramp.