On 1st September 2020 Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne paid a visit to one of the Ward End Gardeners Association sites. Four of our sites are in his constituency but he didn’t know this one was there at all! Lots of other people, including people who’ve lived in the area for years, are also unaware of St.Margarets Road site as it’s tucked away down an unsigned driveway behind houses, shops and garages, but it’s no longer as invisible as it once was.
The prompt for this visit was an invitation from Rashta Butt, Manager of Unity Hubb based at St.Margarets Church just 2 minutes walk away. Rashta wanted to showcase the ‘Unity Hubb Outdoors’ which is reviving interest in grow-your-own at the site as well as the other activities she has been organising with the aid of grants.
Since the loosening of lockdown, lots of the people who’ve previously been regulars at Unity Hubb’s indoor activities are now turning up with their children to get involved in gardening and craft activities at the site on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
New people have also come along, including people recovering from cancer, or getting over bereavement or depression. The new projects have also drawn in several keen home gardeners who are benefiting from the social interaction they are getting in the open air, and lots of newbies who’ve discovered the joys of gardening while they’ve been stuck at home. At the site, the New Shoots Gardening Club that I’ve been organising since October 2019 is now established and we’ve handed out lots of fruit and vegetables to all the site’s new visitors.
Meanwhile, since the lockdown restrictions began to ease, on the next plot (called Diverse Garden), families and small groups are taking charge of sections to grow their own choice of vegetables and flowers. Children are enjoying digging up potatoes grown on the Club plot or having fun in the ‘mud kitchen’ and papier mache activities organised on another plot which Unity Hubb has just started letting for community use. Also included is a ‘Seed Pantry’ run by the plot’s organiser Aisha Mahmood who has selected seeds suitable for growing in August and early autumn.
MP Liam Byrne was impressed with what’s going on and heartened to hear from longstanding plotholder Roy Brittle how this new influx of people has brought the site back to life. Liam has been asked to help address the site access problems which have bedevilled the site for several years and deterred new people from signing up. Time to get them sorted!