Our Adventures in Permaculture at Meadow Well Connected

Hello and welcome to our blog tracing our journey at Meadow Well Connected Community Garden (a.k.a The Meadows)! The Meadows is part of the Meadow Well Connected Community Centre which has been supporting the community of North Tyneside for over 25 years.

We are very fortunate at Meadow Well Connected to have a garden of nearly 5 acres. Over the years it has been looked after by some dedicated volunteers, and includes a number of raised beds, polytunnels, fruit trees, a play area and the beginnings of a sensory garden. In the past it has been used commercially- to sell fruit and vegetables as well as therapeutically, supporting the Adult Day Care Service. It has become clear though that we need a more organised and sustainable approach to the garden, in order to care for it properly. Our hope is to work together with the local community to create a garden that is rooted in the ethics of permaculture; a garden that nourishes and sustains the earth, wildlife and local community.

About us, the writers:

Andy Skinner (Community Garden Co-ordinator)

Hello all! In early March, I took on the role of Community Garden Co-ordinator at Meadow Well Connected. Needless to say, it has been a pretty surreal start! Coronavirus put the brakes not just on the garden but on large parts of the world. Frustrating as this has been, it has given us a valuable opportunity to plan and reflect on the direction we want to take with the garden.

As I only got to meet a handful of people before the lockdown, I thought it would be helpful to give a little introduction. I grew up in a town called Loughborough, in the East Midlands but have lived all over the British Isles and Ireland. I moved to the North East two years ago and have been loving it! I am truly hooked to living by the coast and when I’m not in the garden you’ll probably find me at the beach surfing.

I started my career as an Outdoor Instructor. This kindled a passion for working in the outdoors that continues to this day. In 2009, I studied a degree in youth and community work and then worked in different settings (including detached, group work and community arts). I’m passionate about helping and being part of communities that are looking to bring about sustainable change.

My interest and knowledge of gardening comes primarily from my father and grandfather before him. I‘m blessed to have my own garden and love growing as much fresh fruit and veg as I can. As well as the classics, I love experimenting! This year’s projects include chocolate habanero chillies, Chilean guava and oyster mushrooms. I recently helped run a community allotment at the YMCA and it was a real privilege to witness young people growing alongside the garden.

The environment is hugely important to me and I take a keen interest in Permaculture. Its connection between social justice, community building and personal change is what we’re all about at Meadow Well Connected. As always, I still have a lot still to learn (don’t ask me to recite any Latin plants names for a start!). The community garden is going to be big challenge but it’s an amazing opportunity. It’s great that Megan and I started at the same time and we look forward to working alongside the community to make the vision for the garden a reality.

Megan Primrose (Volunteer Co-ordinator)

I also started working at Meadow Well Connected in early March, as the new Volunteer Co-ordinator. The hope was that I would be co-ordinating and recruiting volunteers for the garden to start with, alongside supporting our current volunteers, but a week later, the Governments plea to 'Stay Home, Stay Safe', changed my job dramatically!

Like Andy I have a passion for gardening. I love how hopeful it is and how from a small tiny seed, something beautiful and miraculous can grow. I love plants that grow in the wild like red campion and cow parsley- they remind me of the grassy fields and verges that surrounded my first home in rural North Wales. I am also fond of growing food that is edible as I enjoy baking and cooking. Plants like nasturtiums (they're bright, beautiful and edible), marigolds, gooseberries, artichokes and fennel. I always add lots of perennials to my garden too as they help bees and butterflies thrive e.g. catmint, lavender, hyssop, salvia and echinacea. The natural world is a gift, and it's important we try to look after it.

My background is primarily in the arts. I studied English Literature, then Journalism, followed by a Masters in Creative Writing. I like doing anything creative- playing music, drawing, printmaking as well as being active in the outdoors. I'm not a surfer like Andy, but I like sea kayaking, wild swimming and walking. I also enjoy helping others learn. That is why I have also been a TEFL teacher in Europe and in Asia, have worked as a Learning Support Tutor and delivered creative writing and illustration workshops in schools as a Creative Facilitator.   

Despite this very strange start to my job, I am looking forward to seeing how the garden will develop and change over the next while and writing about it here! Please join us on this new venture together!