Last year Winterbourne House & Garden was involved in BGCI’s project, Improving the social role of botanic gardens. The support we were given throughout the project by BGCI and the links made during the project continue to be invaluable. The communities in nature blog is really inspiring and a fantastic way for everyone to share in the process.
Our project began last March and from the outset it was a very fast moving experience. All of those involved experienced the steep learning curve, including participants, Winterbourne staff and visitors.
It was around this time in early summer, that the spring rush to get things growing was starting to ease off, and enthusiasm for the seemingly endless weeding and watering had started to dwindle – even if enthusiasm for the project itself had not faltered! Through informal workshops on various topics, such as making liquid feed from comfrey, participants found a renewed sense of encouragement. It was also a great time for participants to enjoy the garden together, away from the vegetable plot. One of the most rewarding moments was at harvest time when the group reaped the rewards of their hard work. Everyone began leaving Winterbourne weighed down with bags of produce they had grown themselves!
We all learned quickly that flexibility was vital for our success, but keeping goals in mind were very important too. Adapting to the varying needs of those involved and making sure everyone got the best experience meant that the project itself became a very organic process. We have learned many lessons on how we can improve.
It’s just hard to believe how quickly a year flies by!
In March this year we held an exhibition about the project, coinciding with Islam Awareness Week 2012. The participants got involved with much of the planning of the look and feel of the exhibition. It included photographs documenting the activity on the plot, as well as artwork, scrapbooks and even recipes inspired by the project. It was great to get together again to share stories and memories sparked by some of the photos.
Urban Veg has now morphed and the next stage is just as exciting. Tackling associated health and social issues, Urban Veg will be promoting a culture of Urban Food growing as a means to address the impact poor diet and obesity can have on social exclusion and public health. Through short and in depth training courses aimed at a broad mixture of people, Urban Veg’s next phase will be to introduce concepts of conservation, sustainability and increased well-being, through outdoor activity and social interaction, here at Winterbourne House and Garden.
As it enters its next phase, Urban Veg is sure to be just as dynamic as it first started out. Watch this space!