Want a fruity Valentine’s weekend to remember?

Love your Orchard Day at our new community garden project in Brighton and Hove.

By Rosie Linford, Community Gardener

As a fairly new member of the Food Partnership, I have to admit the task of turning a patch of Saunders Park into an Edible Community Garden has felt a bit overwhelming and at times, impossible.

The children’s play area adjacent to Lewes Road is well known but the Edible Garden area behind Shabitat is much less frequented and has attracted anti-social behaviour over the years. The garden has definitely seen better days and is in much need of some love and attention. There’s no doubt the space has huge potential but getting it even halfway towards the vision in my head of a green oasis is going to be a tough one.

Fortunately, I like a challenge. As do a growing number of regular volunteers who have started to attend my regular gardening sessions.

Nature is on our side

Armed with a handful of tools and a willingness to transform the space, myself and the team of volunteers have planted over 160 bulbs, dug up weeds, pruned bushes, hacked at brambles, and collected bags of rubbish to help prepare the space for planting this year. It seems nature is on our side too. After replanting some currant bushes that had been dug out and chucked in the pond (twice), we were delighted to find new leaves sprouting.

The satisfaction at the end of a session is undoubtedly shared among everyone who attends. To walk away knowing the space is left better than when we found it, is what counts.

However it’s not just the space that’s improving; volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds with all kinds of life experiences, with the aim of getting involved with their local community.  At the Food Partnership we know from previous research how gardening helps improve wellbeing. The volunteers have told me how they enjoy the sessions, getting to know each other and they’re still coming back for more.

Love your Orchard this Valentine’s

You don’t need to take my word for it. Come and experience it for yourself. If you’ve ever felt tired of the commercialism of Valentine’s Day, here’s a solution: come and love your local orchard instead. I’m not talking about hugging a tree (though you can if you want), I’m inviting you to come over and spend the day or a few hours at a local park, helping to plant trees and care for a secret young orchard on Saturday 11 February from 10.30am at Saunders Park. The satisfaction of improving the space and in years to come, returning to pick apples is surely a Valentine’s weekend to remember.

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