Let’s Grow Preston is an environmental charity working in Preston, which is about helping local communities brighten up their areas and neighbourhoods with a wide range of planting
Tracy Hargreaves spoke with Annie Wynn, project development manager at Let’s Grow Preston, based within Ashton Walled Garden on Ashton Park, about how the scheme works and the benefits people reap from being involved.
“We are a network of community gardens across Preston,” says Annie.
“Supporting people within the PR postcode with seeds, plants, knowledge, tools, risk assessments and help to fill in application forms for funding, to name a few things.”
“If a member of the local community discovers there’s a grot spot and wants to improve it, we can help set up consultation with residents and talk through a plan of what they want to do with it. They need to get the buy in from the community in order for it to work.”
The project was set up in 2011 by Preston City Council. It came up the initiative and invited people to set up a network of community gardeners.
Let’s Grow Preston has two sites of its own, one of which is Ashton Park, along with 25 community gardens across Preston, South RIbble, Chorley and up to Garstang. Ashton Park is its shop window. It has an edible garden, peace garden and formal gardens and it also grows food. Volunteers sow the seeds for them, and they then give the plants away to the community.
Annie first got involved after her local vicar found out that she was doing an RHS course at Myerscough. She was one of the ones to go along to the initial meeting about the scheme, where she was noticed for her knowledge and was made secretary but quickly got promoted to chair. After her third child she left her job as an insurance broker and became a self-employed gardener, but she was spending more time volunteering. The charity received lottery funding and the position of project development manager was created and in 2018 she was offered the role.
“If you have a community garden the land isn’t yours but is usually owned by the council or a housing association,” says Annie. “So, you need to have public liability insurance which can cost between £250 and £500 and can be a stumbling block, we can help with full risk assessments and how to go about getting insurance.”
“We are always at the end of the phone and have a monthly network meeting where anyone can attend. Sometimes we have gardens which are struggling with vandalism or a certain type of plant and it’s a member of the network who resolves those issues.”
The scheme is also great for people’s wellbeing and has contacts with link workers and agencies where people are recommended to them. “They could be someone who is socially isolated to those with mental health issues. People come regularly because it’s a great place for getting outside, getting some company and a sense of achievement whatever your age.”
If you are interested in getting involved in community environmental activities in Preston or would like to set up your group or project get in touch.