Let’s Grow Preston - the community environmental charity based in Ashton Walled Garden
- Credit: Linda Viney
A community garden in Preston is helping people get close to nature and to learn more about growing their own.
Annie Wynn, project development manager of ’Let’s Grow Preston’ which is a community environmental charity based in Ashton Walled Garden. They support community gardens, food growing projects and those focused on improving woodlands and park within the Preston postcode. They provide training and volunteer opportunities along with access to resources and materials. Annie, who has Royal Horticultural Society Level 2, started as a volunteer before becoming project manager.
WHAT AND WHERE?
The Walled Garden on Ashton Park, in Ashton, Preston, is a large community garden which is used for training, volunteering and growing stocks of plants to help new and upcoming groups and activities get going. It is well-documented that being outside and mixing with nature is good for your mental as well as physical health and here you can benefit from both.
The formal layout is based on a sunflower with ‘petals’ created from raised beds leading to a central axis. Started in 2015, it has now matured into a beautiful place offering beauty and tranquillity as well as produce from the Edible Garden. There is a productive area with a large poly tunnel and a Peace Garden where staff from the neighbouring medical centre often spend their breaks to unwind from the pressures of work.
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The formal part of the garden is made up of raised beds planted predominately with geranium, aster and rose. These are interspersed with ornamental grasses, with bamboos are kept in pots to prevent them taking over. The tall stipa gigantea, with its seed heads swaying as they catch the breeze, compliment the tall sunflowers that give a splash of autumn colour.
Roses and clematis are being trained up and along the centre axis supports and a tall holly tree stands in the centre of the Peace Garden where you find calmer colours from the pinks of the Japanese anemones to the whites of leucanthemum. The pink hydrangea changes a darker colour as it matures.
Volunteers have first pick of produce grown in the Edible Garden, with the remainder sold or donated to locals. Among the crops are cabbages, runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes and raspberries. This year they also have a bumper crop of apples which may be pressed for juicing, as will other fruit gathered from around the area to save it going to waste.
WHY IS IT SPECIAL?
The garden is very special to the local community as anyone can benefit from gardens and gardening. It introduces people to the joy – and health benefits – plants can give and advice is on offer to anyone who needs it.
Tim Wherry, started volunteering at the garden at the garden after moving here from Cornwall. He now works here four days a week and said: ‘I enjoy working in the Edible Garden and am in the process of revamping it. I’m also testing out the ‘no dig’ method where you just mulch every year which saves both time and your back.
‘This is a very special place for me and when I’m not working, I volunteer and the camaraderie that builds up with the volunteers is second to none. It is not one person’s garden but a garden for the community where there is an aura – as soon as you walk through the gate you get a sense of ease and peace.’
In spring many gardeners ‘split’ their perennials, often leaving them with excess plants, and Let’s Grow Preston annual plant donation scheme gives them an opportunity to donate these plants to be used within the community. They are also fortunate that Peter H Smith, a local florist wholesaler, provides them with weekly donations of surplus stock plants and sundries which are used throughout the network. Plants donated so far have gone into their own gardens and other projects it the area. Newgate Nurseries and Matthew Smith of Brighter Blooms are among the other local businesses who support them. They are currently funded by the National Lottery Community Fund as part of their Help Through Crisis stream.
They are looking to get better known and want more people to become involved. Let’s Grow Preston can offer gardening volunteering roles at its Community Hub in Ashton Walled Garden and at other sites around the city, such as Andy’s Bee Meadow. They also have a large number of community groups registered with them so can often find volunteer opportunities with them.
They host seed swapping days and other courses throughout the year, though some have not been held this year because of the Covid-19 restrictions. They were able to have a couple of openings for the National Garden Scheme though, with booked time slots. And after winning a Gold Medal and Challenge Cup for the best Show Garden in their category at last year’s Southport Flower Show, they are already looking forward to the event’s return next year.
When growing brassicas, regularly check the under leaves as they mature to spot any signs of eggs laid by the cabbage white butterfly and remove with your fingers, as well as any caterpillars who may be munching away at the leaves. If you net them, make sure you haven’t trapped any butterflies inside otherwise they will have a field day.
WHAT YOU CAN TRY?
Whether you have a large garden or small back yard you can still grow produce. There’s a lot you can grow in a half barrel, while peas and beans can be grown up a wigwam and as well as giving food they produce beautiful flowers. Even if you’re restricted to a windowsill, you could still grow a range of herbs.