Laura Cartledge unearths gardening revolutions in Worthing and Chichester.
Digging beneath the surface reveals it’s no longer a case of ‘how does your garden grow’ but how to help the community blossom.
“Things are changing. The power is coming more from the people themselves,” agrees Anthony Dickinson, one of the many who are working to transform the Worthing area.
“People are showing not just an interest, but a real passion,” admits Andy Edwards, parks and foreshore manager for Worthing Borough Council.
“We, as a council, have limited resources so any help we can get makes what we can offer better across the board.
“We are trying to get more communities involved,” he adds, “not just in the maintaining but in the running.”
Groups such as Transition Worthing run a whole host of projects with this in mind, from woodland and wildlife to local food and allotments.
Garden share has been running for about three years now and is best described as a ‘garden matchmaker’.
“It matches someone who may be elderly and unable to care for their garden with someone who might not have one, it is a lovely project,” reveals Pauline Cory, a trustee at Transition Worthing, “it sowed the seed for the Permaculture Plot I run.”
Based at Ecclesden Windmill the plot practises what it preaches, by both growing organic produce and running workshops to demonstrate the skills to others.
Wanting to encourage and help greenfingered fanatics do what they do best has been at the top of the list for Andy since taking up his post in September last year.
“There were more than 20 community groups,” he recalls, “what we want to do is bring all these groups together. We’ve accessed all the open spaces to find ones where people could get involved and open up more opportunities, the take up has been good.
“We are working on a special license which will take the bureaucracy out,” Andy says, “we want to make it as simple as possible and we don’t want it to be strangled by red tape.”
Guerrilla gardening is a growing movement which seeks to battle this bureaucracy and budget cuts with bulbs and beautiful borders.
While the phrase might conjure up images of individuals creeping into flowerbeds by torchlight, the reality is quite different.
For Anthony, who has run Feast in Warwick Street for eight years, his involvement was ‘born from frustration’.
Not only was the area around his shop ‘a bit of a dump’ he knew from his customers that the workforce whose job it was to fix it had been cut.
“Over the years it has just got worse and worse,” he confesses. “For me it has become a bit of a thorn which I can’t shift. You know when something annoys you – it could be a noise, it could be a fire alarm going off.
“I asked the chair of the police constable special officers if I did something about it will I be arrested? He said ‘no’, and for me
that was the green light.”
A real testament to Anthony’s passion can be seen just outside Feast’s door in the shape of a square flowerbed.
Where there was once a mat of weeds and thorns, there now sits a riot of colour.
“A lot of the plants in the beds are donated by nurseries or private individuals,” he reveals. “It’s got a community spirit.
“But I can’t help wonder if we have made a rod for our own backs,” Anthony adds, saying that while ‘lots of people have commented on how good it looks’ it hasn’t had the impact he really hoped and now the pressure is on him to keep it up.
“I thought it would have kickstarted something,” he admits, “but it is still worth it because it makes the place looks nice. It’s a celebration of what we can achieve.”
Building on the community planting concept has seen an unused patch of land in Donnington, on the outskirts of Chichester, turned into an open air supermarket.
The ‘edible verge’ is brimming with produce and boasts a sign explaining ‘people must help themselves’.
“It is for everyone,” says Anita Van Rossum, project co-ordinator and trustee of Transition Chichester, who hopes the project will produce both food for the table and food for thought.
“It is part of a bigger picture,” she agrees. “It is about reducing food miles and for the food security – we are too reliant on fossil fuel.”
The fact Britain is now more reliant on food imports than at any time in the past 40 years, highlights the importance of such issues.
“It really is important we start to produce as much as we can in this country,” enthuses Brian Turbefield, chairman of Donnington Horticultural Society. “I have, for some time, been seeing in the press about guerrilla gardening. It’s a case now instead of growing flowers where we shouldn’t, why don’t we grow vegetables where no-one would object?”
Having highlighted an ideal spot, Brian set about doing just that armed with packets of seeds, courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Edible Britain campaign, permission from the county council and compost donated by the Woodhorn Group.
“I thought it would be a good idea to get the ball rolling in West Sussex by doing it in Donnington. I know people have busy lives,
but half an hour of relaxing in the garden would do them good,” he adds. “To grow a little bit of food is great, it’s the best hobby
there is. It’s good for you physically, spiritually and mentally.”
A look at other projects
Cortis Avenue Wildlife Garden, Worthing
This ‘green oasis’ site was voted the Sussex winner of the Co-operative Big Community Vote 2011 the year it started and now regularly hosts teaching days from the Sussex Wildlife Trust.
Worthing millennium woodland group
With a focus on creating and developing woodland with local and indigenous trees, shrubs and flora. This local group collect,
grow and then transfer seeds into plants for woodland sites in the borough.
Information on Transition Worthing’s website www.transitiontownworthing.ning.com
Farm drop, Worthing
Described as an ‘online farmer’s market’ this click and collect local food project has been running as a trial in Worthing since
May and will soon look to go national.
Seafront planting competition, Worthing
Following the success of the, Worthing Journal inspired Guerilla Gardening campaign in 2013, the Worthing Town Centre Initiative now organises a competition for the best flowerbed on the promenade. The competition for 2014 is now over but more information can be found at www.worthingtowncentre.co.uk/seafrontplanting
Storm Industries, Worthing
From Union Place to Bedford Row, this group have transformed a number of sites in the town and hope to ‘encourage
people that the little bit they do can make a real difference’.
To find out about Storm Industries projects and visit www.stormministries.org
West Tarring Allotments, Worthing
Here the allotments are not only used, but managed, by the community. This helps the council keep on top of areas that aren’t being used, so it can be given to one of the 500 people currently on the waiting list, and ensured any repair needs are ‘nipped in the bud’.
For information on this and other sites the council has available for community groups ,visit www.adur-worthing.gov.uk
Donnington Edible Verge, Chichester
See the plot and get inspired by attending a opening meeting at the verge held every Friday from 5pm to 6.30pm.
Information can be found on the Transition Chichester website who are happy to help anyone wanting to start a
similar initiative. www.transitionchichester.org
This group hosts a range of ‘Grow Chichester’ projects from a grow your own support group to the community orchards
in Oaklands Park and Whyke. Plus there are also two community gardens, the Oaklands Park Community garden is currently in the design and building stages while Bishops Palace vegetable plot is up and running.
Visit www.transitionchichester.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org