Another new venture is about to start at our hideaway site – St.Margarets Road. This is the smallest of the Ward End Gardeners Association sites in East Birmingham, but it’s packing a punch with all the developments there. This is the result of the partnership between the Association and Unity Hubb, the community centre which operates at St.Margarets Church, which is less than 5 minutes walk from the site.
The new project is called Diverse Garden and it is being set up by Rashta Butt, the Centre Manager at Unity Hubb. A local resident who has always worked in the area, she has been setting up projects and running activities at St Margarets for 7 years, bringing together the diverse communities in Ward End and encouraging the sharing of interests and skills. Up till recently most activities took place indoors at St Margarets which was refurbished for community use in 2013.
Then through involvement with Ward End Gardeners Association and The Active Wellbeing Society (TAWS), she and other people at the Centre started to work on projects which could reach out to the community and tackle environmental issues such as flytipping and neglected communal spaces. The New Shoots Gardening Club that was set up in October 2019 at St.Margarets Allotment Site was the result of collaboration between WEGA and Unity Hubb, partly to tackle social isolation and loneliness, but long-term to bring the joys of gardening and de-stressing through nature therapy to anyone who can appreciate it!
Diverse Garden is a new idea and should appeal to people with limited time or experience, but who want to have an opportunity to develop their individual creativity with plants, in company with others. Rashta hopes the people who get involved, will grow their own favourite vegetables and fruits as well as cooking together and sharing it. From her experience of the social interaction between people from different communities she has witnessed at the Hubb, she is confident that the same will happen outdoors on the site, and there are plans to have a communal shed and sitting area where people can swap tools, plants, tips, ideas and stories.
The Covid19 pandemic restrictions which have forced people to spend so much time indoors at home and out of touch with family and friends have no doubt had a negative impact on many people’s mental health and wellbeing, but there is an upside. People in our area, and particularly women and children, have been taking to gardening and discovering the benefits of watching the miracle of plants developing from tiny seeds. Amongst the older generation are people who started life in agricultural communities and have experience and knowledge to pass on to their urban children and grandchildren.
In the years to come, as the Diverse Garden participants get growing, they will forge new connections and build inter-generational relationships that will hopefully spill over into the community outside this little site.