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
Our Secret Garden is taking shape. Thanks to our local community we won a community grant from Tesco Bags of Help scheme. Since then we have planned and built our new Secret Garden. The garden, designed by two of our members, will be a calming space for members and visitors to relax in.
The Garden Design
The theme for the garden was ‘secret’ and ‘woodland’ and the aim was to create the garden using as much recycled material as possible.
Creating the garden
The main structural elements were put in place by contractors in March to ensure the garden is safe and accessible. Since then volunteers have been bringing the garden to life. They have planted a willow tunnel and a fedge, recycled donated plants and built features such as the hazel pole fences, hanging picture frames and windows to peek through.
We would like to thank everybody who has helped to create the garden so far, but especially our members Jane and Damien for all the hard work. We would also like to thank the 19th Bromley Scouts who built the two bug hotels
We hope to have a formal launch party for the garden in the summer when the plants have grown. Before then there’s still a lot more work to be done ranging from weeding to woodworking.
If you would like to be part of the team creating and maintaining this wonderful new community garden please speak to a committee member.
We’ve just had details through of how to vote in the Tesco Bags of Help community grant scheme.
Tesco’s customer will be able to vote for their favourite local project between Saturday 27th February and Sunday 6th March. The voting is really simple. Each customer passing through the checkouts will be given a token. You then simply pop the token into the box of the project you most favour (hopefully you’ll pick us!).
At the end of voting, the project with the most amount of token votes will be awarded £12,000, the project with the second most amount of token votes will be awarded £10,000, and the project with the third most amount of token votes will be awarded £8,000
You can vote in the following stores:
HIGH STREET PENGE EXPRESS
CROYDON RD PENGE EXPRESS
PENGE HIGH STREET EXPRESS
ANERLEY RD CRYSTAL PALACE EXPRESS
ST PAULS CRAY EXPRESS
BROMLEY PLAISTOW LANE EXPRESS
BROMLEY HIGH STREET EXPRESS
BIGGIN HILL EXPRESS
We will use the £8000 grant to improve access to the Secret Garden by renewing pathways within the garden and from the car park to the garden. We will also rejuvenate planting and renovate wooden structures as well as improve and extend our educational facilities which are used by local schools, allotment members and their families and our visitors.
If we win the additional funding through the voting we will use the money to pay for community art projects at our Annual Open Day in May. Ideas so far include paving slabs with handprints, painted tiles, or willow structures. If you have any thoughts about the type of community art project you would like to see let us know!