After the last year and a half of restrictions and lockdowns and having to close the gardens at various points, it was a joy to be able to go on a trip together with the garden volunteers.

Earlier this year, Northumberland Estates named Meadowwell Connected as their charity of the year, and have been supporting us in various ways since, including funding a trip to Alnwick Gardens.

This was a perfect outing for our green-fingered bunch and there was much excitement in the run up; all feeling like children on a school trip, even though there were only two actual children present and the rest of us aged somewhere between 21 and 90 respectively! All the ingredients for a good coach trip were there- snacks, singing (behind masks!), working toilets and people vying for the back and front seats of the coach!

Our day at Alnwick Gardens started with a tour and lunch kindly provided by George and Claire at Roots and Shoots. This is a programme based in the Alnwick Garden that works with schools and community groups supporting health and wellbeing through gardening. It was very inspiring to see what George and the volunteers had achieved with the space.

   

There were rows of beautiful cabbages, artichokes, purple sweetcorn, beans, cucumber, lettuce; an archway of apples, several tomato trellis’, and, planted in amongst them all, the bright sunshine flowers of marigolds, nasturtium, sunflower and dahlia. There were other creative elements too- scarecrows, planters made from old boots, a hut decorated with woollen pom-poms and a gigantic paper-mache spider crawling over its roof, a goldilocks style bear, a disco ball which reflected the brilliance of the sun and metal sculptures depicting a woodland scene. We were also very impressed to find very few weeds and wondered what their secret was…

We then had time to explore the rest of the Alnwick Garden: a poison garden, numerous water features to get soaked in, a treehouse, swings under the cherry trees, topiary, ponds, fountains, beautiful planting schemes. It was all very impressive. But it was the community garden that we learned from the most.

Much in the same way as our garden requires cross-pollination to thrive, we community gardeners rely on the same process of swapping ideas and encouragement between like-minded folks. And this is how community gardens should operate- being able to learn, inspire and encourage one another to provide a space for local people and wildlife to thrive. We are very grateful to Northumberland Estates for the opportunity to do this and look forward to sharing more ideas together in the future.