2018 was our third growing season and saw the garden flourish in many ways! We hope you will enjoy hearing about all that's happened over this last year.
Thanks to the dedicated work of volunteers, the Stonehill Community Garden team and workshop participants this year, we have:
The diversity of our visitors has also grown, from the ladies of "Drayton Wives" to the "Community Payback Scheme" workers, as well as our long term groups; we’ve continued to build strong ties with Style Acre, Kingfisher School, South Oxfordshire Food and Education Alliance (SOFEA) and DAMASCUS youth club. Each group and every individual meet, work and relax together each week. We talk and share a sandwich and a cup of tea while reconnecting with nature and the outdoors.
Growing vegetables in extreme weather conditions.....
The cold burst in late winter delayed the poly tunnel building but our nursery was up and run by late May, filled with seedlings. A wet late spring resulted in the late planting out of onions, carrots, beetroot, broad and runner beans, kale, cabbage, pumpkins, courgettes and cucumbers to name but a few. Then the endless hot dry spell took its toll on the plot and water became a big issue. It feels that this was the beginning of feeling and experiencing the effects of climate change on gardening and agriculture. Though we have rain water harvesting methods on site, they had all dried up. Lots of contrasting views arose as we tried to work out how to handle the drought. Some of our seedlings suffered, as did our newly created ponds. The rain did eventually come, and a lot was salvaged, and we look ahead to next year with hope.
We ran our first accredited course this year, "An Introduction to Permaculture". This was run in partnership with Incredible Edible Oxford and was aimed at vulnerable groups including young people not in employment and no longer in education or training. Further courses included: "Edible Planting", "Creating Edible Spaces" and "Eco Building". Each course was attended by between 8 and 10 people. We are continuing this work with young people from our partner SOFEA in Didcot, introducing young people to gardening and practical outdoor skills.
As well as extreme weather this year, our other big challenge was that mid-way through the year we realised that our funding was running out for our weekly open sessions and pay for the upkeep of the garden.
Thanks to the employment of a new fundraiser, Naomi Hope, alongside the generosity of many individuals and organisations - we have been able to secure funding to cover our running costs. A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to the garden this year. We would like to give special thanks to Anthea Norman-Taylor and our funders of 2018 – Awards for All, the Ernest Cook Trust, the Doris Field Charitable Trust, Lush, Oxfordshire Community Foundation, Community Action Groups and Drayton Parish Council.
We have also recently secured funding which will allow us to continue our work in 2019 from the Nineveh Trust, the Gregg’s Foundation, and the Woodward Charitable Trust. This funding will allow us to install our irrigation system next year and to continue to pay our staff to welcome groups into the garden!
In autumn we held our annual Harvest Meal, attended by over 50 guests where we shared a buffet of delicious dishes made from the abundant garden vegetables. There was also live music from local musicians Linda and Geoff as well as 'bee talks' from local beekeeper David Busby. Since then, we’ve been as busy as ever, pressing over 80 bottles of apple juice, creating a boundary hedge with trees donated from the Woodland Trust, and a new hugel bed. We’ve also rehomed 4 more ex-battery hens (which makes 6 in total) and they are all settling in happily and becoming healthy in their newly extended plot.
The coming season will see more growth; we will be setting up an irrigation system, powered by our wind turbine. We will also be creating new paths and places for people to relax, even if they are not able to take part in the gardening . We want the garden to be a space for people to enjoy being within beautiful nature, whether that's having your hands in the soil or just sitting back and breathing in the fresh air. We hope to keep creating opportunities for people to be together in nature, share knowledge and learn from others, appreciate one another and the environment we all share.
Thank you to everyone who has volunteered, donated or visited Stonehill Community Garden this year!