Our impact Meadows Blog Our Amazing Meadows Garden Volunteers "There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight" GERTRUDE JEKYLL We are very grateful to the volunteers over the years who have given their time, energy, enthusiasm and skill into making The Meadows a place that brings delight and joy to those who spend time in it. Some of our volunteers have been with us for fifteen years or more and have kept the garden going, even when the workers have been few and the weeds abundant. We are so grateful to them- for their dedication, commitment, care and determination to see beauty and potential beyond the ugliness and the unruly wilderness of The Meadows. Our thanks to Millie, Gerry, Ian, Joe, Jo, Fran, Alan, Stephen (Dougie), James, Stan and Martin and to all the other volunteers who Andy and I never got a chance to meet- we appreciate you! Gerry working hard! It has been great to see that after a quiet time in the garden, our volunteers have grown in number, thanks to the Tyne Fresh project Meadow Well Connected co-ordinated with Sebastian Prost (see below). And even though we had to close our garden for a few months to keep volunteers safe due to Coronavirus, they have not been deterred and in fact returned last week with even more gusto and steely determination to sow, plant and dig and help the garden flourish once more. A few of them kindly agreed to introduce themselves and talk more about the Tyne Fresh project and how they have become volunteers for The Meadows garden more generally: Sebastian: I believe everyone should have the right to good food and to be able to eat what they want. Gardening is a great way to connect with food- to see its journey from seed to plate. I moved from Austria to the UK almost 4 years ago, to do a PhD at Newcastle Uni. As part of that I have been collaborating with Meadow Well Connected for about 3 years now. Together we set up a local food hub, called Tyne Fresh (www.tynefresh.uk) that allows people in Meadow Well to order food online from small local producers, who deliver to Meadow Well Connected for pick-up. Sebastian- in the garden Then in the summer, last year, I organised a series of workshops with local residents to discuss ideas around food. One of the top ideas was to start a community garden! Conveniently, Meadow Well Connected already had a community garden, though over the last few years a lot of the growing plots had been taken over by grass and weeds and they needed a lot of work. Meadow Well Connected were more than happy for us to use the land, and supported us in getting started. There's a plot in there somewhere! We then organised a public meeting about the garden at the end of October 2019, (having dropped flyers at all doors on the Meadow Well estate and at local libraries and shops). North Tyneside Council also announced the event to their very long waiting list of people wanting an allotment. We had a good turnout at the event and soon after, the core group of Paul, Jackie, Christine, Ken, Peter and me, started preparing the first beds. It was a lot of work to start with, as there was couch grass everywhere. In the winter months we covered the grass with old carpets and plastic sheets to kill it off. When we started digging over the grass in late January, we realised that this didn’t really work, and we had to weed it out by hand. We also had to fix most of the wooden frames as they had been half rotten. At this time also Julie and Fran joined the group. Up til March we met at least once a week, sometimes twice, and some very motivated members went on their own even more often. I really enjoyed working together in a group- it makes the work so much easier and enjoyable. And I made new friends, chatting over a cup of tea, and sharing ideas and knowledge about gardening. The garden closed, due to COVID-19, but I was quite excited to see how we all continued our enthusiasm for gardening at home: planting in the backyard and in pots. It certainly motivated me to plant potatoes, radishes and nasturtiums on the shared balcony of my flat. Paul, who is part of the group, grew all these at home during Lockdown! Frances: My name is Frances and I've been volunteering at The Meadows for a couple of years now. It started when I returned from WOOFing around mainland Europe and wanted to continue learning about growing organic food but didn't have any space to do it. I also had an interest in the many benefits of gardening, and Meadow Well Connected has been supporting people with various needs in their gardens for years. I started off helping generally in the garden and supporting the staff who were delivering lessons and guided support for the many users of the garden. During that time I got to learn a lot more about plants and trees, thanks to Helen, Becca and Howard and I even got to learn a little about beekeeping from Dougie who keeps his hives there. After a change of staff the garden was very quiet so I happily joined the Tyne Fresh community garden project. I'm really looking forward to getting back to the garden and growing lots of food, medicinal plants, flowers and herbs, and making use of the amazing orchard and fruit bushes that the Meadows has. I'm looking forward to working with Andy and Megan and all of the community gardeners to help the place thrive! I think the need for places like The Meadows is greater now than ever. We have all seen how fragile our infrastructure can be in times of crisis, and creating local food security is one of the ways we can protect communities and enable them to provide for themselves, support each other and connect with the earth. That's something I believe passionately in and is why I believe volunteering somewhere like The Meadows is worthwhile. Food is free! Ken & Jacky: We are both retired and live in North Shields. As we both had office based jobs we were keen to spend a lot of our retirement outside in the fresh air. We have tried for a few years to get an allotment in North Shields, but sadly the waiting lists are very long. Then last year we heard about the Meadow Well community garden initiative and came along to the first meeting. We immediately decided to sign up (even though it was getting towards winter) and joined the group. We have one plot that we have spent many days digging and weeding, (the sight of couch grass still gives us nightmares) in the process we have met and made friends with lots of new people. We do not have much gardening expertise, and only have a very small garden at home, but we are looking forward to learning and growing. Just before Lockdown Ken built a planter out of old pallets and was so chuffed. The community spirit in the centre with all of the staff and volunteers is heart- warming and infectious and we are glad to be, in a small way, part of it. The benefits of working outside far outweigh the aching muscles. We would encourage anyone to come and join us - we are learning together and helping each other and that is part of the fun of it. Peter and Christine: We had put our names down for an allotment but nothing was happening. North Tyneside sent an email about the Tyne Fresh project so we came to the open night with Jacky and Ken to see what it was all about. It seemed like a good opportunity to have a vegetable plot whilst doing something for the local community. We have loved it, have met some lovely people, learnt a lot and have got a great deal of satisfaction from it. Radishes growing in the raised beds- hooray! If you want to find out more about the Tyne Fresh project please contact Sebastian: [email protected]. If you're interested in volunteering at The Meadows garden, please get in touch with our Volunteer Coordinator Megan: [email protected].