Today we hear from Sarah Gorton, ESCC Locality Link Worker for The Havens about a project in Newhaven:
Newhaven Growing Together Community Garden is a beautiful space high up on the edge of Newhaven with amazing views across fields to the cliffs and the sea. It has been operating as a community garden since 2010, but because it is not on a public transport route, it doesn’t get as much use by the local community as it could. The community garden group wanted to make it more accessible and used by people in the community who would particularly benefit from this calm and nurturing space, in particular people who might be experiencing mental health issues, or feel marginalised and out of contact with their community.
The group successfully raised money from Sussex Community Foundation to put on a range of activities over the summer with transport to the garden in a CTLA mini bus. Following consultation with groups that worked in the community in Newhaven, such as the Well Being Centre, the employability projects at SCDA and others, we planned a programme with informal activity leaders to take place from May to July. We found some very creative and willing people who were willing to come and share their skills and knowledge as activity leaders and who did so for a very reasonable cost. They were not necessarily trained tutors but all offered a great experience for the participants. This included an introduction to the garden and gardening, outdoor yoga, drawing and sketching, mindfulness, herbs for well-being, pottery, weaving with natural materials, outdoor cooking and story-telling.
The activities were planned once a week over 10 weeks, posters were put up in local GPs, circulated through SCDA and the community well-being centre and promoted on local social media. People were required to book places. Take up from the client group that we targeted, people with mental health issues or low confidence was slow and we made a decision to publicise more widely and make it an open invitation to local people.
We were really lucky with the weather and for most of the sessions the sun shone and the garden looked at its best. Only one session had to be cancelled due to rain. We asked everyone who attended to fill in a brief evaluation of the session and make any comments, suggest improvements and we also asked if they would like ongoing contact with events at the garden or to go to volunteer sessions.
We asked people to rate whether they had enjoyed the activity and whether it improved their health and improved their well-being. The vast majority gave all activities the top rating (5) for enjoyment and positively impacting on their health and well-being, with a small number rating some activities at 4.
Participants were asked if there was anything they particularly liked or gained from the activity.
A selection of comments include :
‘Meeting local people and opportunity to use new media’
‘Peace’ ‘Stress relief’ ‘ Loved it’
‘Lovely to be doing exercise in such a beautiful setting with birdsong’
‘So positive and therapeutic, really made me smile.’
‘Activity leaders and people from community garden welcoming friendly and approachable’
‘Gained skills, knowledge and a sense of community’
‘The activity was fun, relaxed, great for mental health and well being’
‘Knowledge, new skills, better understanding of herbs’
‘A lot of fun and very inspirational’
‘L is amazing , thanks for such a wonderful experience ‘
‘Felt relaxed and at peace and learnt something new’
There were very few suggestions for improvements, one person wanted more information and less chat but most people seemed to really value the informal and sociable aspect of the sessions. Many of the participants have said that they would like to stay in touch with the garden and be involved in future activities.
This was a very successful project which offered a lot to those who got involved. We could have had more participants and the garden group will hopefully think about putting on more similar activities in the future. It has already had an impact in putting the garden more firmly on the map and encouraging more engagement and involvement from local people.
You can find out more about the garden, and SCDA below.