Award-winning allotment site creates green space for local community with Bags of Help grant
Dorset Road Allotments and Leisure Gardens Society is an award-winning allotment site in Beckenham, south east London. One of the few allotment sites to regularly win a Green Flag award, it has a real community focus – from regular open days to fundraising events for local charities. When the group wanted to improve their ‘Secret Garden’, a much-loved communal space open to all in the community, they applied to Tesco Bags of Help and were delighted to receive a £10,000 grant.
The Secret Garden was originally build 15 years ago by an allotment member, using recycled materials. It was a space for people to relax and enjoy being outdoors – it was so successful that it won an award from Bromley Council. But despite regular maintenance the garden was falling into disrepair, with paths, fences and buildings deteriorating and making the garden difficult to access. As well as restoring the garden, the group wanted to make the garden more welcoming for those with special access requirements, and to extend its educational facilities.
With the Bags of Help grant, the group were able to move the garden to a new site, closer to the entrance of the allotments. This meant it was more visible to passers-by, increasing the number of people who would use it. With the move came the opportunity for a whole new design, which many of the allotment-holders were involved in. Designs and mood-boards decked the wall of the clubhouse so that everyone could comment on the ideas and track the progress of the design.
Building the garden was a real group effort, with volunteers helping along the way and people kindly donating items for the garden. Some even went skip-diving to help find reusable materials, such as old doors and windows which were painted and used to create some of the structures that give the garden its secluded feel. The group learned new skills such as how to create willow tunnels to give the garden a beautiful entrance. A local Scout group created two insect hotels to increase the habitat for wildlife. For more complicated structures, the Bags of Help grant allowed the group to bring in contractors – ensuring that everything in the garden was sturdy and would last for many years in the future.
The construction of the garden is now complete, with vines, creepers and other plants waiting to spring into life in the warmer months to make the space seem even more magical. On entering the garden, you’re led down a willow tunnel before reaching a covered seating area and the main open space, with benches and space for picnics and activities – all surrounded by abundant plants and wildlife. The garden is now accessible to more members of the community, and is used by visitors young and old, as well as two primary schools. People in the area from all walks of life have a wonderful new space to enjoy nature, learn about plants and wildlife, and relax.
Donna Sallows, Secretary of Dorset Road Allotments and Leisure Gardens Society, said:
“It was good to see many people involved in this project from start to finish. This new space is already proving very popular and is a great asset to not only those members who will use and enjoy it but also the wider community through visits and open days. Through time this space will evolve and become a truly secret garden”
The Tesco Bags of Help scheme takes the money paid for plastic bags in stores and puts it into grants that benefit local communities. Millions of pounds have been given to a wide range of projects.
If you have a project that benefits the community and would like to apply for up to £4,000, please visit www.groundwork.org.uk/tesco
On Saturday allotment members and friends from the community joined us for a double celebration – the launch of our Secret Garden and Bonfire Night.
Secret Garden launch
After a year of building and planting our Secret Garden was officially launched with a tea party. Tea and cake was available and there were craft activities for the children.
As darkness fell, the Secret Garden party gave way to our Bonfire Night extravaganza! As well as the usual fireworks, bonfire and supper the Woodcraft Folk were there to help members toast marshmallows, make damper bread and roast cinnamon apples over the fire. And of course, the Secret Garden looked fabulous with it’s new lights.
Well done to everybody involved for all the hard work to create two events for Members, family and friends. More photographs are available on our Facebook page.
Secret Garden – thanks to Jane and Damien
The main structure of the Secret Garden has now been completed! This is mainly down to the hard work and determination of our members Jane and Damien. They have given up many of their weekends this year to design and build our new accessible Secret Garden as well as oversee the work of their friends and family (thank you Annette, Sophie and Alice) as well our plotholders who have provided some additional help on volunteer days and our site manager Paul. You can read more about the history of the garden here and here.
Magical Secret Garden
The garden will mature over the coming months and years as the climbers grow to enclose the space and make it more magical. At the moment I particularly enjoy the beautiful shadows that are cast in the garden by the willow tunnel, coppiced hazel fences and climbers outside the door arbour. I’ve even enjoyed sitting and passing the time of day with fellow plotholders.
We will need help maintaining the garden over the years to come. As with all work done on site, it is our plotholders and members who make Dorset Road Allotments such a safe, attractive and enjoyable allotment site. Help that will be needed include:
- watering the pot plants
- weeding flower beds
- cutting the grass.
We will also need more plants to fill out the large flower border. If you are splitting perenniels, sowing annuals or have some spare shrubs please consider donating some plants to the garden.
If you can spare some time to help in the garden or want to donate some plants please speak to a committee member.
Tesco Bags of Help
And finally, we wouldn’t have been able to build our wonderful Secret Garden if it wasn’t for the help of our local community who voted for us in the Tesco Bags of Help scheme. Thank you to everybody who voted. I hope you have already visited the garden on our Open Day. We will also be having a launch party on Sunday 27th August. We are also open every Sunday between 10am-1pm for the local community to visit.