Community growing

We would love to greatly extend the amount of food that is grown within the community. At one time, post-war, a large amount of food was grown in the town but, through development, most growing areas were lost, including large swathes of allotments. There is no reason why existing areas shouldn’t be opened up again, whether via community planting projects, in the form of community allotments at one end of the scale and small-scale planting in beds and other areas at the other, as well as tree and hedge planting with a focus on traditional, edible Kent produce, such as cherries and cobnuts.

Within this vision, local schools, people with learning disabilities and local residents could participate, including people on the waiting list for their own allotment.

So how about turning the vision into reality? A number of potentially suitable plots were identified, including an overgrown former allotment in the centre of town that is owned by a housing association. We entered into discussions and planning to try to ‘unlock’ these. Some of the discussions have dragged on and been bogged down by bureaucracy and red tape. One site we’d definitely like to ‘unlock’ is the old Hythe resevoir site up behind Tynwald (see below).

We would love to have lots of sites for growing produce, so if you are aware of any that might be suitable, no mater how large or small, please let us know.

Our first community garden and allotment project is at Tynwald Residential Home for the Elderly. Run by a charitable trust, we were approached by Tynwald’s volunteer trustee chairman, Councillor John Schoner, to see if we wanted to become involved. A site visit swiftly established that this was an ideal initial project to not only for our plans to unlock as much of the town as possible for community planting of trees and vegetables but also for planting wildflowers and as another site for one of our bug hotels (see other projects).

The residential home celebrated its 50th birthday in 2011, has 24 residents and has roots back to Hythe’s Old Peoples Welfare Committee and the Venetian Club that was sponsored by the Venetian Fete Society. Anyone who is a resident of Hythe or a dependent of residents is eligible to apply for a place. It has a lovely raised location, on Hillside Street, and a large garden around all four sides of the home. This has been maintained on a voluntary basis but, with the retirement of the last gardener, the trustees faced a problem. Knowing the goals and activities of Transition Hythe, and our search for sites, there was a ready-made solution!

General tidying of the gardenstarted and a plan was drawn up for planting, including the allotment, with this put to trustees for approval. We have sought input and involvement from the residents, who we are looking forward to getting to know, so that it can become a joint project between them and the town, with the produce shared.

hedge-planting1-webA planning and first works party met on Monday 14th May 2012, with a plan put to the trustees at their meeting after this, when everything was agreed. Work started and there was a lot of work carried out over the first summer, including clearing an area at the bottom of the garden for planting vegetables, with our first ‘community crop’ harvested at the end of the Summer.

At different stages of planning or implementation are the installation of water butts and nest boxes, the building of an additional compost bin and active composting, adding manure and nurturing all of the beds, and extending the allotment area.

We always need more helpers, so if you’d like to be involved, no matter how much or how little time you have and regardless of your gardening experience.

This is hopefully just the start and we are proactively seeking other projects.

In addition, we’ve worked alongside other voluntary groups on a range of local planting and clearing projects, including at Eaton Lands, by the allotments on South Road (pictured above), by the Military Canal and at St Leonard’s Church. And a number of our talks and courses have had a growing theme, including those on organic gardening and composting, tree grafting and permaculture.