Belfast Telegraph

Trainees plot to revive badly neglected garden

By Linda Stewart

An unloved community garden in west Belfast is to be brought back to life and transformed into an allotment.

Residents of the Roden Street area have been urged to get involved with the Keep 'er Lit! scheme, which will see volunteers from supported training and employment organisation NOW rejuvenate an unused garden beside Grosvenor Community Centre.

They will transform the plot into a working green space and allotment, which will be open to the community all-year round.

A professional gardener will be on hand to mentor the volunteers – who are made up of people with varying levels of learning abilities – and help them develop the space and learn new skills in growing healthy, local produce.

It comes as the Belfast Telegraph launches Blooming Marvellous, a drive to inspire readers to pick up a trowel and transform their surroundings with a little green-fingered magic. The campaign this spring and summer will feature a wealth of gardening coverage, horticultural offers and a series of competitions.

NOW and Grosvenor Community Centre is hoping the Keep 'er Lit! scheme will inspire local people living in the Roden Street area and beyond to visit the garden and get involved.

NOW volunteer services manager Jayne McStay said the idea for the scheme came from trainees at NOW's social enterprise, Loaf Catering.

"Our catering trainees use fresh produce when in Loaf's kitchens and they asked us for the opportunity to learn about growing some themselves," she said.

"We made contact with Grosvenor Community Centre who look after the garden and so Keep 'er Lit! was born. We hope our presence will pique the interest of the residents and help us make this scheme a success."

Tina Black, manager of Grosvenor Community Centre, said she was delighted to welcome Keep 'er Lit! to the Roden Street area.

"I would encourage local residents to get involved with Keep 'er Lit! and try out the allotment and garden for themselves," she said.

Mary Hamilton from Conservation Volunteers, which is supporting the scheme with professional gardeners, said: "We're not only helping the garden and allotment to grow, we're helping the volunteers to grow, too, by passing on horticultural skills."

Keep 'er Lit! is funded by the NGO Challenge Fund, which is financed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and administered by the Northern Ireland Environment Link.

If you would like to volunteer your time to Keep 'er Lit!, contact Jayne McStay on 028 9031 2335, or email Jayne.mcstay@nowproject.co.uk.

* The Belfast Telegraph has launched a major new gardening drive called Blooming Marvellous. We're calling on gardeners and novices across Northern Ireland to take up a trowel and breathe new life into dismal gardens.

* We'll be launching a province-wide gardening competition and serving up a wealth of horticultural articles this spring. Whether you're a gardening club, allotment group or you've spotted something unusual among the tulips, let us know by emailing lstewart@belfasttelegraph.co.uk.

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