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.
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.
We had visitors from Groundwork, the charity that has been working with Tesco on the Bags of Help scheme that funded the Secret Garden.
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.