One gardener suffers from anxiety but is able to get out of the house and mix with others. Another is a youth worker who brings her charges along to learn valuable new skills.
A third is reminded of her late husband every time she tends the vegetables in east Belfast’s latest green oasis — a once derelict piece of land which has been transformed into community allotments.
These colourful images show how Walkway Community Garden will be supplying fresh produce for local people throughout the forthcoming growing season, thanks to the work of Walkway Community Association and Groundwork NI.
The garden was inspired by the late Jim Laird, a local man who believed in making the most of what you have and in living in a simpler, more sustainable way.
“The Walkway Community Association in east Belfast transformed an area of derelict land to an asset for local people,” Groundwork NI director Syvlia Gordon said.
“It took 10 years for the garden to come to fruition from the initial idea to a conversation with Groundwork NI and the Department for Regional Development in 2007. As Jim used to say ‘the simple bare necessities of life’”
Rachael Davison, centre manager at Walkway Community Association, said: “This innovative and exciting community vegetable garden is dedicated to the memory of a well-known and respected local resident Jim Laird and is a fitting and lasting tribute. It has totally transformed this space along with the attitudes of local residents.
“This really is an oasis in the middle of a built-up urban environment and will provide a valuable social, recreational and educational space for local residents for years to come.
“It will also compliment a range of initiatives facilitated through Walkway Community Association such as promoting healthier lifestyles and eating and promoting active community participation and involvement.”
The gardeners at the new allotments have described how the work has changed their life.
David Baird said he suffers from anxiety but the allotment allows him to get out of the house and mix with others.
Meanwhile, Tony Davison said the work gives him total peace of mind. “After recovering from illness it helps me to enjoy interacting with people and I also enjoy helping with maintenance of the garden,” he said.
Youth worker Hollie Lemon said that the garden provides her groups with the opportunity to get outside and learn new skills.
“The children and young people love being out in our garden,” she said.
And Violet Hudson added: “Our community garden provides vegetables for our pensioners group and it is also a beautiful tribute to my late partner Jim.”
Groundwork NI is now hoping to spread the message with the first of a series of seminars on developing allotments next Thursday.
Such has been the surge of interest sparked by Grow Your Own initiatives that the Department for Social Development has teamed up with the group to offer the chance for people to learn about developing allotments, access funding, the health and physical benefits and best practice for developing community allotments.
The events kick off in Belfast next Thursday (March 11), followed by one in Londonderry on March 23 and a second in Omagh on March 24.
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie said: “The development of community allotments have great potential to provide local people living in disadvantaged areas with access to local home grown and affordable fresh fruit and vegetables.
“In developing these schemes there is also a wonderful opportunity to build community spirit. Young and old people can work together to improve their areas and to learn new skills.”