LEEDS resident Paul Long had always wanted to teach his daughter where food comes from, but with no garden his plan couldn’t become a reality. Two years on however, with the help of his neighbours he’s created the Kirkstall Community Gardens, originally unused land behind a local pub, he and his neighbours now share allotment plots at Churchlane Allotment, after the pub closed down. In this guest post Paul talks about his hopes for the future and how he intends to bring the community garden to life.
My neighbours and I didn’t know how to go about setting up a community garden at first so I did some research online and talked to our MP and local councillors. They pointed us in the right direction and we formed an official Not for Profit community organisation with officers, trustees, volunteers and members. We then wrote a constitution, applied for some funding and looked at suitable land in the area.
Kirkstall Community Garden volunteers
Pub landlord lends a hand
We also approached the local pub landlord who had a large beer garden and growing area which was not maintained. The idea was to transform this into a communal growing area where people could socialise and share the food that they grew with others. The landlord really liked the idea so we began work. Unfortunately refurbishment started and the pub closed soon after, but we hope it will re-open soon so we can continue. If it doesn’t re-open we plan to still grow things gorilla garden style, as some people may call it. In the meantime Churchlane Allotment Committee have been very welcoming and supportive. We rent two plots from them on a annual basis. At the moment we are building additional growing space, we aim to have around 20 small plots measuring 4ft x 4ft for members, along with 15 community plots 8 ft x 4ft.
Paul (centre) with a group of volunteers outside The Merry Monk pub in Leeds. The pub gardens were the original site for the community garden
Work begins at Churchlane allotment
It’s not all a plain sailing
Setting up a community garden does come with some challenges. When creating a community garden getting access to land is the main stumbling block. We contacted Leeds City Council about using a local field that nobody really used. The Council told us we would have to find which department own the land, then get a change of use order, hold a public consultation, fill in a stewardship agreement, and run soil tests – all of which could take months.
Community gardeners working on the Churchlane Allotment site
Invaluable community support
Local residents have been fantastic and we have received so much help from several organisations. Lloyds Bank and Asda have sent teams of volunteers to help us with setting up parts of the community garden and Yorkshire Water very kindly donated some topsoil.
Access to this site gives us an opportunity in the future to work with other groups such as Leeds Mind and Autism Leeds. We want to offer them a safe, secure environment where they can bring their members and use our educational facilities and resources.
Along with providing free access to growing space I want us to set up disabled access and children’s growing beds. We also plan to install composting area and polly tunnel to help with growing produce, and a garden shed with educational tools and resources.
In the meantime we have created a stargazing group which provides local people with access to telescopes. I am also working in partnership with Sensory Leeds with the aim to offer basic cooking classes to the local community using some of the produce that we grow.
Inspiring people to grow food in their gardens is another thing I’m big on. We need to become a more sustainable community through meal planning, recycling and composting food waste. We’ve got things off the ground so I’m positive that community gardening projects can help make a difference throughout the country.
Positive about the future
Edited by Celestina Olulode