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Creating the Wild Walcot Garden in Bath

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Posted: Wednesday 30th August 2017 by WildBlog

By Adam Jukes, Vegmead Community Group

Over the past couple of months I have had the pleasure of being involved in a project that has not only transformed a piece of scrubland into a colourful wildlife friendly garden but created a place that is enriching the social fabric of a community.

I help run Vegmead Community Group which maintains the Vegmead Edible Garden, a community food growing space in Hedgemead Park, Bath. A few months ago we were approached by the Avon Wildlife Trust about helping to run a wildlife project with a local community focus. This project, which quickly became known as ‘Wild Walcot’ involves the creation of a wildlife corridor along Walcot Street by adopting a collaborative model of delivery. The Walcot Traders Asscoaiton were quickly on board and a small steering group was formed. 

From the initial meeting we were clear in our intention that the scope of the project be designed by multiple local stakeholders and so the first engagement event we ran was a co-design event for local residents, businesses and other interested parties, held at the The Bell on Walcot Street. Those who came were invited to shape the direction of the project and we provided maps, post-it notes and photos to help make this happen. 

A neglected and unloved piece of land lying to the side of an equally neglected car park was identified that evening as a blot on the landscape of Walcot and a possible barrier to visitors to Bath exploring the upper part of Walcot Street with its diverse range of independent shops. This seemed an ideal spot to begin work creating a wildlife corridor linking the city centre with the buzzing vibrancy of Vegmead Edible Garden with its bee friendly planting. 

On 29th June we kicked things off with the help of Bath based company Amdocs whose employees volunteered their time to help us clear the site of brambles and litter. We installed a bench and planted up some large pots kindly donated by Bathford Nurseries. There was also time to build a fence using old wooden pallets. I spent the day smashing up these pallets and managed to knock up a couple of planters. Thoroughly exhausting, thoroughly enjoyable.

The momentum generated by this first day of volunteering was truly inspiring and we received some amazing feedback. Fuelled by encouragement and additional help we ran gardening sessions over the following weeks attended by enthusiastic local volunteers. Each Thursday evening we gathered with our drills, saws and paintbrushes. By the time dusk set in we knew each other a little better, the garden was a little more planted up and this corner of Walcot, was a more accessible and friendly place.

A lot of people stopped by to express how glad they were to see an unloved space turned into a beautiful garden. The garden was also attracting visitors with people coming by to sit on the bench, with Bath Library leaving children books for families to enjoy when passing. Not to mention the many bees and butterflies that were visiting.

In just 8 weeks the time and effort given to create this garden fostered a deeper web of community connections. I am inspired by the people I have worked with who have made this garden a reality by donating their time, garden materials and their support. I am also heartened by way in which it has become embedded so quickly into the social life of Walcot Street. 

Our towns and cities need spaces like this. More than ever we need to reach out and re-establish personal connections to the natural world and with each other. These spaces can help us do this. These pockets and ribbons of green and colour are where wildlife can thrive and it is here, as volunteers or as visitors where we can too.

The Wild Walcot Garden Grand Opening is on Thursday 31st August, 6-8pm

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