After the cancellation of the annual Britain in Bloom competition in 2020 and its resumption in a slightly altered format in some regions, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to celebrate the hard work that volunteers have continued to put into improving their community throughout the pandemic.
And so, it’s a particularly apt time for the Royal Horticultural Society to announce the winners of the society’s first ever Community Awards which aim to recognise and celebrate the work of community groups are doing. Due to the ongoing challenges around ensuring health and safety during Covid, all entries were submitted digitally using photos, videos and written descriptions.
There’s no doubt that the restrictions around Covid and numerous lockdowns have tested the mettle of communities and highlighted the importance of a strong sense of mutual support and communication within that community. As a result, there has been a large increase in both the number of gardening groups as well as volunteers working in these groups.
Kay Clark, who heads up the RHS community gardening programme, explains how her thoughts on the rise of initiatives like community gardening. “With wellbeing and nature connection becoming top priority during lockdown, we had this massive surge of interest in gardening and the community groups were there to help people learn how to garden, teach skills, share knowledge, plants, tools and all sorts as well as inspire people and cheer them up.”
The RHS is both raising the profile of community gardening through the introduction of the new award as well as putting plans in place to support new groups with resources and training. Kay advises that new groups aim to start small and save costs by growing plants from seed and minimising waste.
The Golden Hill community garden in Horfield, Bristol is an example of a successful community garden that has attracted £88k worth of funding from the National Lottery to help transform their 2000m site. Situated between a prison and a primary school, the originally boggy location has been transformed into a multi-functional, wheelchair-accessible garden that includes a large pond as well as two polytunnels, beds for growing vegetables and an edible forest.
“It’s great to see that something as tragic as Covid can also have a positive impact on our communities,” comments Amberol’s MD, Patience Atkinson-Gregory. “It is so encouraging to hear of the surge in gardening as a way of connecting with people and improving health and wellbeing. We have long been advocates of ‘grow your own’ projects using self-watering planters and the importance of horticulture in mental health, so I’m delighted to see the RHS promoting active communities.”
The RHS Community Awards comprises of five categories: