‘Wonderful oasis’ in Bulwell wins Britain in Bloom prize

From left, Margo Harley, Barbara Bates, Karen Hunt and Freda Reid
From left, Margo Harley, Barbara Bates, Karen Hunt and Freda Reid

A “wonderful oasis hidden away so close to the heart of Bulwell” has won a prestigious award.

Bulwell Forest Community Garden received a level five (outstanding) certificate from the Britain In Bloom 2016 Neighbourhood Scheme in a ceremony at Nottingham Council House, last Friday.

The project grows organic fruit and vegetables for local residents, and provides educational workshops, environmental play sessions, and community health and wellbeing events for people of all ages.

Development worker Barbara Bates praised the work of the group’s 12 committee members “who grafted when nobody was coming down” and all the volunteers - aged from two to 82 - who give up their free time to run the project.

She said: “It is a fantastic recognition of people in the community changing a grey space into green. It has been a huge amount of commitment.”

Barbara, 43, who now lives in Bestwood Village, said the project grew out of a conversation with her retired neighbour, Robert Watchorn, a keen gardener, and her own desire to have a safe space where her young son could play.

The garden was founded in April 2011, opening its gates the following year, and strong connections have been formed with nearby Cantrell Primary School.

Head teacher Deborah Weaver said: “It is central to the school. We are always up there! We have forest school lessons up there two times a week.

“The children don waterproof clothes so they can go outside whatever the weather is like. They are taught how to look after the forest properly - how to identify all the different plants and creatures that live there.

“They are also taught about team building. They have to work together to build swings and dens. They sit around camp fires and share things. Working alongside the forest garden has been really beneficial to the school.”

Accessed from Austin Street, the garden has inaugurated a new lunch club this summer with free two-course meals every Friday, which are open to all. Food is cooked with a clay pizza oven and a home-made rocket stove, and volunteers can take home fresh produce.

Barbara added: We want to increase peoples’ access to healthy food and exercise. Our main focus is on local residents, but the gardens are open to anyone.”

Earlier this year the garden won Lottery funding of £165,000, to pay for three part-time workers, extended opening hours and increased produce over the next five years.

A Halloween event on Monday, October 24, from 1pm to 3pm, will feature pumpkin carving and making lanterns from tin cans.