Image credit: Charlie Watts

A short while ago, we published this post – A few thoughts on allotment provision 11.11.22 – looking at a commercial allotment provider offering plots in locations pretty much only accessible by car and arguing for a different approach of facilitating neighbourhood level food growing and gardening. Regular readers of this blog will know that community gardens are something we’re passionate about. So, when we read this piece – ‘A beautiful spot, crying out to be nurtured’: meet the people behind Filwood’s gardening revolution – Charlie Watts | The Bristol Cable | 15.11.22 – you’ll understand why it pretty much made our day! Here’s an extract from it:

From dumping ground to community garden

As you enter cul-de-sac Belfast Walk, you do not expect to find an entrance to a hidden garden.

The Knowle West Community Garden is on land sandwiched between three streets, opening at the end of July 2022, after a local residents group took just months to transform the former dumping ground.

A path takes you around the site, which has a fish-filled pond as its centrepiece, with fresh fruit and veg growing all around it.

Carol Casey, the interim chair of Filwood Residents Association, says she thought it was important to create the garden to prevent the site from being developed.

It’s a space that can be used by children and adults with clean air, and there aren’t many of them around the area now,” says Carol, who was born and raised in Knowle West.

The site at Belfast Walk had been neglected for years, and was an overgrown mess when the residents association took it on at the end of 2021.

Now though, it is a wildlife haven full of fruit trees, which have been planted in memory of local people who have passed away.

Nor is it the only local green space that Carol has been involved in safeguarding. Twenty years ago, the local campaigner successfully fought for Filwood Playing Fields to be protected by a trust, meaning it can’t be built on. She also set up the Let’s Grow Community Allotment when she was chair of Knowle West Health Association in 2012.

For Carol, the positive impact green space can have on wellbeing is why it is so important in Knowle West. “Mental health issues are huge on this estate,” she says. “It gives space for people to go unwind, and also to learn new skills.”

You can read this piece which also covers what’s happening at Inns Court Community & Family Centre and the Let’s Grow Community Allotment in full here.

All of the above mentioned projects are exactly the kind of initiatives that Grassroots Alternatives wants to support and promote. They’re about residents making a real difference in their neighbourhoods. That’s not just the physical difference of transforming a space but equally important, bringing people together creating friendships and bonds, offering them the opportunity to develop new skills and empowering them to take more control over their lives and neighbourhood.

To use some fancy terminology, in their own ways, they’re all examples of this: Prefigurative action 3.2.22. Or as we say in our mission statement, this:

It’s easy to know what you’re against in a dysfunctional, unsustainable and increasingly dystopian world. Railing against the world we have to endure may make you feel better but…does it lead to positive change? We know that the political, economic and social system we inhabit is rapidly heading towards its use by date and that we have to bring about radical change if we’re going to survive. There are many ways of bringing about the change that’s needed. What this project is about is what can be done in the here and now to boost sustainability, community cohesion and neighbourhood resilience in an increasingly volatile world. It’s about building the new world we need and want in the decaying shell of the old one we currently endure.

Anyway, it’s always good to highlight positive initiatives such as the ones mentioned above. We hope that these will encourage people to take part in anything similar that’s happening in their community. If it isn’t happening, we hope they’ll get the inspiration to join up with friends and neighbours to get something going themselves. For further inspiration, we have this which lists a range of resources, projects and campaigns: The Directory. All the initiatives mentioned in this piece will be added to this.