Chorlton Good Neighbours Garden: The Story So Far
For many years this piece of land at Wilbraham St Ninian’s Church in Chorlton lay unused and largely unseen; a mass of weeds and brambles covering the foundations of an old scout hut. Just eighteen months ago Chorlton Good Neighbours were looking for ways to engage more older men in the group. We realised that gardening as an activity that men would like to take part in and the idea of the Chorlton Good Neighbours Gardening Club was born.
In March 2012 a group of volunteers started clearing the brambles and digging over rubble‐filled soil. A grant from Lloyds TSB for our work with older men allowed us to move forward quickly and install three large raised beds. These raised beds turned out to be wonderful growing spaces and meant that in our first few months we had an abundant harvest of potatoes, kale, lettuce and oriental salad leaves that we were able to share with volunteers and service users.
In a wonderful stroke of luck Bramall Construction Limited were working on flats across the road and oﬀered to do some complimentary work for us. They generously laid patio and paths around the raised beds for free. We now had a proper seating area under the dappled shade of the tree and the garden was starting to take shape
For a couple of months in late summer when the rain seemed to keep falling Bernard Russell Kirby and Carolyn spent many sessions digging out a large mound of soil, compost and rubbish that contained a toilet, a long forgotten drain cover and hundreds and hundreds of buttons.
In October 2012, an Older Men Development Worker, Carolyn O’Hanlon, took responsibility for the project and weekly Friday sessions of the gardening club began. The Leylandii and tree were cut back to bring much needed light into the garden, a compost bay and tool chest were built, bulbs were planted, rubble was heaved out of the ground, and beds dug over and edged. Suddenly the space was starting to look like a proper garden.
Through the colder months of winter and early spring, plans were drawn up; jacket potatoes were baked in the fire and potatoes chitted in the store room. The snow laid on the plot like a cloak – shoots just waiting under the surface to emerge.
In early March 2013, with help of a Manchester City Council grant, a greenhouse was purchased. John, our own DIY expert, took charge of our team of volunteers, leading them through the many challenges of constructing a green‐house. The weather was bitter, and frozen fingers struggled with fiddly clips and bolts. Frames were built and checked and rebuilt again, cups of tea were drunk, and hands were warmed at the brazier as jacket potatoes baked. There were celebrations and moans, bantering and bickering, coaxing and forcing. When the greenhouse was finally completed everyone felt an enormous feeling of accomplishment
As summer 2013 arrives we have been filling up our bed with vegetables, fruit bushes, flowers and herbs. Our greenhouse is now home to tomatoes, broad beans, cucumbers and many types of salads. A herb garden has been built as well as a fruit area and a rockery. As the weather has got warmer we’ve been able to enjoy sitting out on the patio and chatting over lunch. Now the sun is shining more, church users and Chorlton Good Neighbours members are popping out to have a look around at what we have been doing. We hope that as the site develops we will be able to invite more people to use and enjoy this beautiful space in many interesting and enjoyable ways.
It is not just plants that we are growing here but relationships and community. Why not join us in a bit of gardening, or for a chat or just to enjoy a moment of quiet under the tree.
Gardening Club Sessions takes place every Friday10 am to 1pm. Just pop along to a session or contact us at 0161 881 2925 or Helen@chorltongoodneighbours.org