Just some of the work we're involved in around Durham

Local groups in and around the county come together around the theme of food, to take part in growing, learning new skills, creative activity and community events.

Growing Durham secured funding from Healthy Communities and is coordinating the project, which has so far delivered family fun events such as Applefest, during which apple trees were planted, and a free lantern making workshop as part of the Gilesgate Lumiere Lantern Parade.

Partners include Laurel Avenue Children’s Centre, Pelaw View Community Centre, Laurel Avenue Community Centre, RT Projects, Woodpile CIC.

Family Initiative Supporting Children’s Health (FISCH)

The wish of some young people to work on an allotment prompted school nurses Amanda and Joanna to come to the Growing Durham Annual Gathering in Bishop Auckland in 2016 and have a chat with the community workers. In spring 2017 they made contact again and started working on actual making the project happen.

Amanda and Joanne work on The FISCH project, which stands for Family Initiative Supporting Children’s Health) and they work intensively with a small group of families in the Willington and Bishop Auckland areas. Growing Durham contacted the Rosedale and Victoria Allotments Association in Willington and was given permission to use the community garden at the allotments.

Over the course of the summer the group met regularly with one of the Growing Durham workers in the garden. There were discussions about things the children like to eat and would want to have a go at growing, with pumpkins being one of the favourites. Those conversations also allowed them to find out about what plants might do well in County Durham (lettuces and leeks) and which might need a bit more protection and TLC than we’d be able to offer to start with (peaches).

Children learned about sowing seeds, planting out seedlings, weeding, watering and feeding and happily there was a pumpkin to harvest for each of the children in the group at the end of the season. Growing Durham and FISCH staff are now plotting the second year.

Blackhill Club Community Garden

Initially Terri from The Alt Group CIC needed help with getting a budget together for one of the first ‘Tesco’s Bags of Help’ grants and she happened to see an article about Growing Durham in a local magazine. Terri had the brilliant idea of turning part of the area around Blackhill Club into a beautiful and productive garden, but hadn’t done anything like that before.

A successful funding application later The Alt Group set about turning that vision into reality, not without hiccups and bumps along the road but with a team of volunteers the garden has slowly grown up from what was an uninspiring bit of grass.

Growing Durham  has largely been a source of advice and inspiration; the volunteers with Terri pushing them forward, have done all the hard work, but it has proved to be beneficial to have someone on the end of the phone, or easily accessible by email, who is willing to talk through issues and who has tried of few things before.

In the intervening years Terri and a couple of the volunteers have done a Permaculture Design Certificate and have worked with another Food Durham partner to start a community fridge which allows food from shops and supermarkets that is close to its best-before date to be collected for free by anyone who needs it, thus stopping perfectly good food going to waste.  Terri and The Alt Group have also started transforming some of the public growing spaces across Consett, for instance by working with shops to improve some of their flowerbeds.

Waterhouses Community Orchard

When a new housing development in Waterhouses provided the Community Association with some Section 106 money, they knew just what they wanted to do with it: they wanted to plant a community orchard along the railway path which runs the length of the village.

One of the members spotted a piece in Durham County News on the services of Growing Durham and contacted the team.

Over the next 18 months or so Peter from the Growing Durham team and Stefan from the Waterhouses Community Association talked fruit: they talked about varieties and rootstocks, types of fruit to grow and potential planting locations.  One of the locations that looks promising, not far from the Village Hall turned out also to be the one place in the village itself where children can play a game of football, but fortunately there were plenty other places available for the trees.  The plans were discussed with the DCC ranger responsible for the railway path in that area and agreed and in February 2017 the 50 fruit trees were delivered by a specialised nursery and planted by a team of volunteers from the village.

It will be a few years before the apples, pears and plums will start to bear fruit, but once they do there will be such an abundance for local people to enjoy!

Blackhill and Blackfyne Allotments

Blackhill and Blackfyne Allotments Association manages a fairly large allotment site on the edge of Consett Park. In 2015, one of their allotments became available when an elderly tenant could no longer manage it and they found that the plot was absolutely full of stuff, much of it made by the previous tenant.

This gave the Association Committee the idea that they should convert this allotment into one where people could rent an individual bed, rather than a full allotment.  Older plot holders were an obvious target audience: many allotmenteers love coming to their plot, not just to do a bit of pottering, but also because of the social aspect of being with like-minded individuals.  However, individual beds are also great for families with young children and people who don’t have the time to look after a whole plot.  It’s a much better feeling if you manage to look after a small piece of ground well, rather than struggle with a plot that is too large.

That was a great idea and one that could be considered by many allotment sites!  However, getting from the plot full of junk to one where 10 beds can be rented individually proved to be a major undertaking, in which Growing Durham played a supporting role.  Clearing the site was perhaps the biggest task; much of it was done by members of the Committee but Growing Durham also pointed them to Prince’s Trust group in Consett which helped with some of it.  Growing Durham also helped with developing and writing some of the funding bids to allow the Committee to put up a new fence and gate, create the paths and some of the rest of the infrastructure.

It took the better part of two years to get from idea to renting out beds, but the pictures show what an amazing job the Allotment Association has done!

St Paul’s Church, Spennymoor

A project to transform the conservation area at St Paul’s got underway in early October 2016 with a litter pick. The aim of the ‘Grow at St Paul’s’ project is to create a new growing space around the building for local people to use and benefit from.

The plans for the space were developed with the support from Growing Durham and include creating a new wildflower area, building raised beds and planting fruit and vegetables, as well as other initiatives to encourage wildlife.

Revd. Matt Tarling, vicar at St Paul’s hopes that people will come here and learn about growing fruit and vegetables and looking after plants so that everyone can enjoy being a community together.  As the project develops there will be lots of opportunities for people to get involved and information will be available at the church’s Facebook page.