Unity Community Garden – about more than vegetables!
For the second in our series on Hidden Gems, we visited the Unity Community Garden. This oasis of calm is hidden away at the bottom of Leeves Close in Heathfield. The garden, which was started 12 years ago, is essentially a mini allotment for the residents of Leeves Way, Leeves Close, Newnham Way and Waldron Thorns. Anyone local can apply for one of the sixteen plots available to grow vegetables on. Although due to its huge popularity, there is usually a waiting list, but it is always worth contacting Diane Brenham who runs the garden to see what is available. The garden is well equipped with water butts, tools, pots, canes, netting, a greenhouse, a social area with seating and an awning and even a composting loo, which makes it very easy for beginners to get growing. Some raised beds have been created to allow wheelchair users to make use of the garden and there is a ramp allowing easy access from one end of the garden to the other.
“Our members really enjoy coming here, they grow everything from potatoes and carrots to courgettes, chard, beans, peppers, salad crops, peas, and broccoli to soft fruits. The place is about much more than the veggie plots. We host regular community coffee mornings and community events here like BBQs and open mornings. It is so important to keep this lovely area accessible to all of the community,” explained Diane Brenham, Chair of the Unity Community Garden.
One member commented: “After we moved to the area, my son & I were luck enough to get a plot, we grew some very tasty veg, met lovely new people and really enjoyed being part of the garden.”
Diane and her husband Colin have been involved in the Unity Association from the start helping to drive forward the many different elements included in the garden; in particular the funding. Diane is hugely determined, and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to applying for grants and in starting up new community enhancement projects. The garden is a charity and run entirely on grants and donations. She also recently achieved funding for all of the large planters sited around the community and organised the seasonal planting to make sure that they look their best all year round. She fundraises through raffles with prizes donated by local businesses and is a very visible part of the community, whipping up support when needed to keep the garden well maintained and an asset for everyone. Diane also mentioned how grateful she has been for the the support of many local people in creating and developing the garden. One of the early supporters Paul Cox sadly died at the end of last year; there is a lasting tribute to him in the garden which was planted earlier this year.
Diane also organises regular crafting sessions for the residents of Mary Burford Court and last Christmas she ran the first Christmas Party Event for local children there; and she hopes to repeat the event again this year. Immediate plans for the future are, an Activities Morning for children on 27th October from 11.00-1.00pm in the garden at Leeves Close. This will include a Smoothy Bike Ride, refreshments and fun Crafts.
Diane would like to thank all of the people and organisations that have supported the garden; ” We have received funding from many sources over the years including WDC, Waitrose, PPAF, local shops and members of the public; I would especially like to thank Wendy Voice, Brian Blakemore and Ellie Boultbee (WDC) for their help and support which has gone a long way to ensuring the garden continues to be a resource for the community.”
To find out more contact Diane Brenham on: firstname.lastname@example.org