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Categorized | Case Study, Featured

Reviving Shelthorpe Community Garden, Loughborough


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Shelthorpe is a hidden gem of a community garden, tucked away at the end of a narrow cul-de-sac and surrounded on all sides by 1950s council houses.  The entrance is through a high wooden door that looks like an access to someone else’s garden, down a shady jitty, lined with high board fences, and through another door.  Beyond is secret garden, full of vegetables and mature fruit trees, a shed, greenhouse and polytunnel, bordered by thick bed of beautiful borage, alive with the sound of bees.
The land for this garden was given to the Shelthorpe Community Association by Charnwood Borough Council in 2008 and, like many community gardens, has had a varied history as regular growers come and go.  Children’s art around the fences is a testament to local schools’ involvement over the years and the site is well set out with facilities tEntrance to Shelthorpehat include raised pathways, water collection tanks and a compost toilet.  However, by 2014 numbers had dropped off and students from Radcliffe College answered an appeal for help in tidying the site up and keeping the ever encroaching weeds under control.  Sadly, local support was not sufficient to sustain their work, with only one local continuing to grow on the site and keep it secure in recent years.
In 2017, Leicestershire Master Gardeners were approached to find some support for the Community Association and bring the community back into the garden.  Master Gardener Dave Bull offered his help, and Master Gardener Helen Burgess joined Fearon Hall Garden Group’s Amanda Bolton in supporting a gardening group for people with learning difficulties.  They now grow here once a week as well as in the Fearon Hall garden.
Back in the spring, a group of young people from the Princes Trust carried out a major clear up of the site, covering heavily weeded areas with suppressant fabric and tarpaulin to block the light and starve the thick perennial weed roots beneath.  There are now full veg beds around the site and by next year this mulching will have cleared more areas for planting up.  Visitors are greeted by a thick rows of beans, rows of sprouts and cabbages, beetroot and sweetcorn.  In the greenhouse are cucumbers and tomatoes, chilies and peppers.
20170821_102530Fearon Hall Gardener Louise proudly shows us her patch, tying up vigorous tomatoes with help from Helen and showing us the rows of lettuce and radish she has grown.  Each row is neatly marked with a row of cockle shells collected on a beach trip and she chats animatedly about her plans to plant carrots next.  This is her space and like most gardeners, she loves showing it off to others.
At a table, Amanda sits with two other gardeners from the Fearon Hall group, teasing apart a tray of carrot seedlings and exploring the tiny roots.  Each one looks like a tiny cake decoration.  It’s not an orthodox way of planting carrots, but it seems to work and germinating carrot seed in Leicestershire clay is never an easy task.
Having weathered a bad patch, Shelthorpe Community Garden is now on the up again and is open for locals to join in with the growing on Mondays and Fridays, between 10am and 12 noon, with support from Amanda and our Master Gardeners.  It is a space in which to relax and enjoy the calming pleasures of getting your hands in the soil, to learn new skills and make new friends and to produce your own food in an area where many families struggle to meet the rising costs of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Shelthorpe is a wonderful community resource but a hidden gem, which can be a problem when trying to engage local people, the challenge now is that facing most community gardens, to reach out and draw in new growers, something that Leicestershire Master Gardeners are all too happy to help with.

If you’d like to get involved, contact Amanda at amanda@fearonhall.org.uk or pop in to say hello on a Monday or Friday.  You’ll be very welcome.

 

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