In 2013 Wiltshire Youth for Christ Director and Parish Youth Worker, Steve Dewar first had the idea of creating a community garden in the centre of Ryeleaze, Potterne. There was a green space up a narrow lane in the middle of an estate but it was neglected and overgrown. After an excellent start was made, the impetus was lost as people lacked some of the skills needed.
At the start of the 2017 Steve heard about something exciting on the radio. It was a BBC initiative to help support a community gardening project. This was to mark the 60th year since the first local regional TV news ‘Points West’ programme and the 50th year of BBC2’s Gardeners’ World. The idea was to help a community get a garden underway that could draw people together.
Steve immediately thought of the green space in Potterne. After emailing the BBC, Steve and a local resident met the panel to discuss the possibilities and survey the area. The space was then chosen and, with the help of BBC2 Gardeners’ World presenters Joe Swift and Flo Headlam, work on the celebratory community garden began.
Summer Progress in Potterne
Over the summer the community garden has begun to really take shape. “We’ve put more plants in, a slate stream and created a mound that curves round like a snake,” says Steve. The team have also filled the raised beds with winter veg and started planting an area for quiet contemplation.
Bringing People Together
The project has the potential to bring together the local residents, primary school, youth centre, church, social groups, Royal British Legion, gardening groups and others. The residents are responsible for growing and harvesting the produce. They, in turn, are then able to reap the fruits of their hard work and commitment.
The new garden lets people of all ages get their hands dirty, take pride in their local area and see it flourish. Different groups are taking ownership of different parts of the garden. Local mum Lorraine says her son Jake has been there “every day at 8 o’clock with a spade”. She also describes it as a “great place for young people to meet friends and get involved”. Older people too are seeing the benefits. Keith from the local gardening club also thinks the garden will “strengthen the community”.
Phase 1 Complete
At the end of the first phase of work on the garden Steve thanked everyone involved. “It’s been amazing and very humbling to be part of something that allows residents to develop, experience new things, share their lives with others and build a stronger community together.” Some people believe things never change and no-one ever listens but local people creating this unique space together shows that isn’t the case.
Steve believes the garden could leave a lasting and socially fruitful legacy. As he says, “With faith, hope and love, amazing things are possible”.
Steve and the team appeared on BBC2’s Gardener’s World on Friday the 8th of September.