Swavesey community orchard

Swavesey Community Orchard

In the autumn, community volunteers planted a further 15 fruit trees and started a cordon of apples and pears for other visitors and nature

Peacocks Meadow Community Woodland Garden

Funding and support from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks and Natural Cambridgeshire have supported community plant outs in Peacocks Meadow led by Friends of Woodland Garden. Volunteers have so far planted 5000 bluebell bulbs, 150 primroses and foxgloves, and 1000 snowdrops. With another plant out session planned in the new year, volunteers will be planting even more bluebells and snow-drops in the green.

This is just the start of a much wider project which aspired to create a lasting legacy woodland, which will go some way to combatting the loss of this precious habitat in the region. For example, volunteers created Toad Hall – a mound of bricks, earth and rubble which has been planted with wildflowers and two small, rain fed pools have been installed on it. Toad Hall has already been colonised by frogs who have been spotted basking in the sun on the mound. The group are extremely proud of all the work that has been carried out in the garden, but envision the restoration of a woodland habitat within a well-loved community garden, where the public can see and enjoy its development over time, as their greatest achievement. Community engagement creates community ownership. The community garden has attracted a wide range of users and diverse user groups these include: families, youth, mental health support groups, home-schoolers, and users with physical and learning disabilities.

Peacocks MeadowPeacocks meadow sensory garden bench

Since the first tranche of planting Friends of Woodland Garden have been granted permission to plant hedgerow trees, instead of more bulbs, for the second tranche of our planting project. Volunteers will be planting a ‘woodland hedgerow’ with hedge species that are becoming increasingly rare in the wild: Sloes, damsons, crab apples, cob nuts, and a heritage ‘Cambridge Gage’ tree. This will provide a legacy ‘hedgerow harvest’ in years to come, as well as becoming a teaching resource for local children, introducing them to the joys of hedgerow foraging and ‘harvesting.’

Because Peacocks Meadow is managed by the community, local residents regard the garden as theirs. They feel that it belongs to the community. One of the chief benefits of this level of engagement is that users and volunteers alike have a vested interest in monitoring and maintaining the garden. They are extremely pro-active in reporting any problems or issues, and in helping to rectify them. Because the garden is well-used by the public, vandalism and antisocial behaviour does not occur and users are greatly appreciative of the time and effort that goes into maintaining the garden, because they are aware that volunteers do this. The groups great ambition is the next few years is to gain enough funding to create a viable ‘natural’ pond in the garden and hope it will become a learning resource for local schools and pre-school groups, with activities such as pond-dipping, while being a haven for aquatic fauna and flora.

 

Credit: Edited by Heather Thomas, CPFP Project Officer, with special thanks to Deborah Curtis, Friends of Woodland Garden – Peacocks Meadow for her written contribution to this article and pictures.

Orchard Park Community Planting

Cambridge Cohousing is a cohousing community in Orchard Park that undertake regular small-scale projects to help build a greater sense of community in Orchard Park and try to develop a culture where the community takes more ownership and responsibility for the spaces around them in support of the environment and local wildlife. Orchard Park is a relatively new urban fringe development on the Northern Edge of Cambridge. It benefits from many small open space and tree planting, but residents found that the planting have not been taken care of by contractors and over time many plants have died and not been replaced. Over time there has been a loss in biodiversity in the area.

Orchard Park has little by way of community activity and some of the small open green spaces are used very little. This project therefore aspired to activate some of the local community spaces and connect people at a hyper local level to their immediate environment to benefit nature, but also connect people and help build a greater sense of connection and community. Local resident were invited to participate through regular social media posting, leaflets delivered to nearby houses, and displaying blackboards and bunting in the local area. Funds and support from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Future Parks and Natural Cambridgeshire was used to purchase native bulbs, plants, and fruit bushes. While November is good for planting, its a challenging month to get people out of the comfort of their homes when conditions are cold and damp. However, during the plant out, particularly when planting on verges near the guided busway, high level of passing football meant there were lots of positive interactions with local people.

Over 6 sessions, 22 volunteers took part. Volunteers planted 20 fruit bushes, underplanted with spring bulbs to improve biodiversity. Across the spaces 6,185 builds were planted. Many of the participants were people who had visited or previously taken part in community events such as pop-up cafes Cambridge Cohousing ran in the summer, their monthly Rubbish Rambles’ or ‘Mere Way clear-up’ the previous year. The success of the project shows how small but regular activities led by local communities can bring people together activate local community spaces to change peoples perceptions of these spaces as active community hubs and strengthen community cohesion.

Credit: Edited by Heather Thomas, CPFP Project Officer, with special thanks to Frances for her contribution to this article and pictures. 

Octagon Chapel Community-led Pocket Park

Inspired by a resident retracing their family tree communities turned a graveyard that had been locked away and neglected for 75 years into a wildlife friendly pocket park.