Local councillor tells of “massive” benefits of community gardens

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Rothsay Roundabout Community Herb Garden. Image: Cllr Lucy Bywater
Rothsay Roundabout Community Herb Garden. Image: Cllr Lucy Bywater

A community garden can offer people a place to relax, meet others and a chance to engage with nature, a councillor has said.

Councillor Lucy Bywater (Green, Castle) said community growing schemes offer “massive” benefits to residents.

Speaking at the Community Herb Garden on the Rothsay/Castle roundabout, she said: “There’s huge physical and mental health benefits just from the actual gardening and maintenance.

“Because people chat, people talk about all sorts of things while they’re doing it, so it’s a counter to loneliness and isolation.

“And it’s physical exercise – it’s like going to the gym, but you come home smelling really nice.

“There’s the wider benefits to the community because they can see that you can grow things locally even on a small patch,” she said.

“It’s also great for biodiversity, every year the lavender is just buzzing with bees.

“And locally organically grown herbs are so sustainable – fresh, no waste, no food miles.

“Better in all senses than plastic-wrapped herbs from the supermarket.

“It’s impossible to overestimate the good it does for people,” she said

A honey bee enjoying the Rothsay Roundabout Community Herb Garden. Image: Craig Lymm
A honey bee enjoying the Rothsay Roundabout Community Herb Garden. Image: Craig Lymm

This Community Herb Garden was started by Zero Carbon Castle around 18 years ago, and councillor Bywater said she has been involved since the beginning.

“The council funded us [in the beginning], they funded the locally grown plants from the Stables Christian Centre,” she said.

“There was a pot of money then but obviously with Austerity that came to an end, so now we’re self-funding.

“We’ve been self-funding happily for a long time and before the pandemic we used to do an annual Herb Garden open day, so we’d sell herbs and cake and jam and stuff and that would keep us going,” she said.

The herbs are not just for volunteers, anyone can help themselves – within reason.

“We’ve had people come up to us and dob other people in and say I saw someone help themselves,” councillor Bywater said.

“But we want them to, that’s the point, as long as they don’t dig and only cut.

“It helps us if people cut things, and we love it when people tell us ‘I cut some mint and I did this with it’, that makes us happy.

“That’s the whole point of it,” she said.

Plants at the Rothsay Roundabout Community Herb Garden. Image: Cllr Lucy Bywater
Plants at the Rothsay Roundabout Community Herb Garden. Image: Cllr Lucy Bywater

The Herb Garden is looking for volunteers, please email jane.perrone@gmail.com for more information.

Advice on setting up a community gardening scheme can be found on the Royal Horticultural Society’s website.

Councillor Bywater acknowledges that raising money for a new garden could be a challenge.

“If there’s a core group of committed people to start something, try seeking funding via councillors’ ward funds or charities such as Food For Life,” she suggested.

“It’s something that every community should have really, it’s a win-win,” councillor Bywater said.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

 
 
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