Community allotment project flourishes in Swaffham

Community groups and volunteers have gathered to officially launch a thriving allotment project in Swaffham.

Enjoy Swaffham Community Allotment Project Enterprise (ESCAPE) has transformed an overgrown double allotment on the town's Tumbler Hill site over the past couple of years, using gardening to bring people together and promote good mental health.

The project, run by Family Action, received Ecominds Big Lottery Funding last year and gives people a chance to relax, socialise and learn new skills while tackling the stigma often attached to mental illness.

More than 60 people attended the project's launch yesterday, tucking into a barbecue while taking a look at the carefully planted rows of vegetables and flowers, neat paths and new shed at the site.

Project co-ordinator Katy Fullilove said the project would not have been possible without the help of volunteers and is keen for more people to take part.

Organisations involved in the project include the Garden Science Trust, West Norfolk Mind, Swaffham Wellbeing Group, the Merle Boddy Centre, Community Payback and pupils from Hamond's High School.

'The junior school will be getting involved soon, as well,' Miss Fullilove said. 'Three months ago there was literally nothing here but weeds.

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We have people of all ages coming down all with a variety of backgrounds. Sitting and having a chat is just as important as the gardening - people can build skills and at the same time meet people and feel useful.'

Miss Fullilove works at the allotment four days a week and hopes that it could be open and available seven days a week as the project grows.

A competition to design a new ESCAPE logo was also unveiled at the launch, with categories for under and over 16s so everyone can try their hand.

Volunteer Neil Flood, from Castle Acre, has been helping out at the allotment for about six weeks and has enjoyed meeting new people.

'I love it down here,' he said. 'I've found another hobby and it saves staying indoors not doing anything. Getting out in the fresh airs helps your state of mind and cheers you up.'

Plans for the allotment include a new compost toilet - to be installed in the next few weeks- a cut flower bed, herb garden, quiet area, live willow sculptures and a herbal tea bed, where volunteers will be able to pick their own brew.

Contact Miss Fullilove on 01760 720302 to find out more about the competition.

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