When and How did we start?
Petworth Community Garden was inspired in 2005 by a Garden Organic project, ‘Organic Food for All’. The idea was to offer an opportunity for local people with limited means (financial, health, space etc) to be able to learn to grow fresh free organic fruit and vegetables, and to take home a free share of the harvest.
Who was involved?
Kate Brickell, loved the idea of the project and went along to train to become a volunteer garden mentor for the scheme, fully believing that she would be placed in an already existing local project. During the course however it slowly became clear that the participants were to go back to their community and each set up a project from scratch in their home town or village… It seemed bit of a challenge to say the least!
However with reassurance from the team, a few packets of seeds and some tools, Kate came back to Petworth and started to look for a bit of land to start the project on. Many fruitless enquiries later, an ideal opportunity was offered by Petworth Community Association’s Tony Sneller, and Petworth Town Council, whereby local resident, John Crocombe suggested two his unused/overgrown allotments for the project.
The plot and first volunteers
As a gardener, once the land for the project was found, Kate felt much happier, and in September 2005 along with her first volunteer Damian, they set to with a couple of scythes and a good dose of optimism. Shortly into the first session, more help came in the form of Andy, a strapping young local lad at a loose end, and between the three of them, over a matter of weeks, began to be able to see a huge change. They put the first allotment down to a carpet mulch to work on later, and on the second, concentrated on unearthing treasures such as raspberries, currants (black, white and red) and 9 varieties of apple trees that had been previously planted by John.
Right from the beginning, members were taking home late raspberries, apples, chard and Jerusalem artichokes, and with the autumn planting of garlic, onions, broad beans and more chard, the next year’s crops were started.
The project grows
Word spread, and the group of fantastic local volunteers grew, along with donations of pots, a pond, a greenhouse and seeds, and the garden started to take shape. The next spring, as many members were parents of young children, the group created a small children’s garden with a willow tunnel, children’s picnic bench, special raised bed and pots, so the younger members could be kept busy.
Since then, over the years with the hard work and generosity of our members, and the support of local organisations, a community fundraiser and eventually other funders, it has slowly developed, and is currently fully wheelchair accessible on one side, with an accessible gate, paths and raised beds, and a fantastic wheelchair accessible compost toilet! We also now have a sensory garden area, a wildlife garden, two wildlife ponds, an accessible activity shed, tool and storage sheds and a compost area, along with strong raised beds built from local Cowdray Estate wood, and of course abundant organic fruit and vegetables and companion plants.
In 2013, due to the growth of our group, we were able to rent another allotment in order to have enough weekly harvest for everyone, and we also now have our long wished for polytunnel.
Accessible to all, community support
Along with offering free fresh food and gardening knowledge, a very important part of this project is to be accessible to all. Gardening is a very therapeutic activity, and there is always a job for every ability or need. Working together in a community group offers social support and companionship, a chance to work in a friendly accepting team, share knowledge and skills, gain self esteem and confidence, and, working within our health needs and requirements allows us to be able to focus on our abilities, rather than our limitations.
We have always had a mixed group of locals, some older, some younger, some with physical or mental health issues, adults with learning difficulties, low income families or people unable to find work a present, and many others, and the great thing about the group is, that here, we are able to drop our ‘labels’, and just be people enjoying gardening together, sharing a cup of tea, and a soup lunch made from the harvest.
Grown for the community, by the community
Our garden has grown along with the group, and every person who has been involved over the years has had a valued input, and has helped to create this abundant project.
Current projects: (seeking ongoing funding)
Learn and Grow:
Our Tuesday group learns all aspects of organic and permaculture gardening, according to need and ability, and enjoy the social benefits of tea breaks and a shared lunch from the harvest.
Plot to Plate:
We make jams and chutneys from our excess produce, and offer a chance to members to learn how to cook our fruit and vegetables at SuJoCos cookery school in Lodsworth.
We have expanded our projects over the last few years, and now also offer a Men’s Shed group, where local men come and create beautiful rural crafts to sell at local fetes and events, including bird boxes and feeders and bee and insect homes.
We also offer bespoke therapeutic horticulture sessions for wheelchair users with more specific needs.
We have been outreaching to local community organisations, and are now working with Rotherlea care home, and Duncton and Graffham schools, helping to run projects in the gardens we have created there.
A new initiative to support elderly or vulnerable locals in their home gardens.