A lot of Penarth residents have been talking about ‘a new normal’, as we come out of lockdown. After a time of stress, sadness and loss for many, we all hope for something better coming out of it.
But what does ‘better’ look like?
Gwyrddio Penarth Greening has paired up with Nub News to share stories and ideas about how things may look, from the point of view of local people: individuals and organisations, businesses and schools.
This week we spoke to Eurgain Powell from Penarth Growing Community and GPG about their new green space initiative at West House.
Back in January, almost 100 people came together in St Augustine's Parish Hall for Penarth 2020 - an event organised by Gwyrddio Penarth Greening to celebrate our 10th anniversary but more importantly to look forward and discuss what actions we can take locally to improve our environment and address big global challenges like climate change.
There was a lot of interest and enthusiasm for community growing - what could we do to encourage more people to take an interest in planting and growing fruit, vegetables, trees and wildflowers, finding a use for our community spaces, parks and gardens, with a longer term aim of growing our own food locally. Penarth as "the Garden by the sea" would seem to be the perfect place! So community growing emerged as one of the projects to take forward from Penarth 2020 and a small group of volunteers came together in early March to start plotting... but then the world came to a stop. Lockdown began.
We used this time to start planning what we could do, who could we work with, locating potential sites across Penarth. Penarth Town Council have a community raised bed at West House so that was our first target! With support from Pete Newton, we were finally given the green light to go ahead with some socially distanced planting at the end of June, and since then our enthusiastic band of volunteers have planted tomatoes, lettuce, cauliflower, beetroot, peas, celery and herbs.
There's also a raised 'trug' that's been planted with lettuce and herbs and this is accessible for all to enjoy gardening.
West House Community Garden is a lovely space – Penarth Town Council have done a lot of work to change the site, adding in more seating, benches and improved raised beds and they are continuing to develop and improve the site. It's great to spend time there and we'd encourage more people to come and sit on the benches or the grass to enjoy the flowers and have a look at how our community plot is coming on. It's a Bee Friendly space as well which means the plants are carefully chosen to encourage pollinators to thrive.
Local people are welcome to take small amounts of the lettuce to keep the plants coming again and the sage, which is abundant and delicious baked with a butternut squash.
And you don't need much space to be able to grow something at home - I've made the most of having extra time at home over the last few months to fill my 2 small raised beds with a range of plants including potatoes, tomatoes, beetroot, lettuce, french beans and peas along with pots of chilli's, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. It's amazing what you can pack in to a few square metres! And eating the fruit and veg whilst fresh is such a joy, it doesn't always reach the kitchen! It's also been great to see lots of plant swaps happening in Penarth during lockdown.
We only have to look into the city to see examples of other groups who are bringing people together through growing. Grow Cardiff, launched in 2015, work to create wild-life friendly and edible growing spaces, transforming uninspiring urban plots into buzzing places where people thrive too. Global Gardens are cultivating an organic kitchen garden on a site by the Heath Hospital, and they support community-based sharing of food and culture. We have to mention Incredible Edible Todmorden too, a group of women who set out to change their town and bring people together with kindness, have planted edibles in every green nook and cranny in their town. Incredible Edible is now a global movement.
Now that we've established ourselves in West House we're keen to work with other groups in Penarth to encourage more community planting to happen across our parks and even in the town centre, in suitable spaces, to grow Penarth's Growing Community. So if you're interested in what we're doing, and want to get involved, please have a look at our social media pages and get in touch.