Community heroes transform ‘dull and neglected’ corner of Norwich
We have teamed up with the East of England Co-op to launch a new Community Heroes campaign, focusing on the efforts of those making a real difference to people's lives.
The second set of heroes to be featured is the team and volunteers at Grapes Hill Community Garden, based in Norwich, who turned a 'dull and neglected' children's playground into a beautiful community garden.
Fran Ellington's dream became a reality when construction and landscaping on the Grapes Hill Community Garden began in late 2010.
Now, the gardens grow organic fruit, vegetables, herbs and ornamental shrubs and flowers to make a garden attractive to people and wildlife.
The site of the garden, bordered by Grapes Hill, Dereham Road, Valentine Street, Paragon and Golding Place was an old and neglected children's playground.
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Mrs Ellington, a trustee and secretary of Grapes Hill Community Garden, said: 'The impression the old playground made was not a great one, it was used by drug users and it made the neighbourhood look bad and depleted.
We wanted to turn the dull and grey tarmac into something beautiful, that the community could be proud of.'
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Initial sketches were based on ideas from the community surrounding the area, and lottery funding brought the plans to life, with the gardens opening in 2011.
The East of England Co-op provided the charity garden with a £250 starting donation in the early stages of it's development,
They also thrived through the Co-op's cuppa scheme, which pours teabags across the region, giving local causes and communities throughout the East of England a free regular supply of Co-operative fairtrade 99 tea.
Mrs Ellington, said: 'The Co-op have been fantastic to Grapes Hill Community Gardens, their support means that we can offer free tea and coffee to anybody visiting our facilities.
'They also helped us fund some community workshops in the past, which was great for getting the word out.'
In September 2010 the Co-op donated vouchers to the gardens, which were used to buy prizes for raffles at a fundraising event they held.
Mrs Ellington continued: 'There funding and support has been really important for us, without their funding we would have had a lot of trouble with keeping social inclusion at the heart of our community garden.'
Inclusion is a huge part of the community gardens, when drawings were first made of the layout wheelchair access was at the forefront of the trustee's minds.
Mrs Ellington said: 'The idea behind the garden is all to do with social inclusion, we want to make sure everybody and anybody can come to our garden for free.
'For example we will never charge people to come to our gardens, for a drink or for our events, if we did that would be excluding them. We also have full wheelchair access for anybody who needs it.'
The garden contains a large number of edible plants, fruit trees, bushes, vegetables and plants such as French marigolds and day lilies and over 30 varieties of herbs.
They also have a small apple orchard, including cherries, fig, plum, apricot, raspberries and blackberries.
Mrs Ellington said: 'We have made sure that the garden has something bright and growing, no matter what time of year or season you visit.
'We want it to be a nice and safe space for people to come and socialise and feel part of a community.'
The charity also have nine deep beds, with access for wheelchair users, that are being rented to members of the local community for growing vegetables.
Mrs Ellington said: 'Our biggest problem at the moment is that we don't have enough volunteers to help with both maintenance and free events that we run.
'You don't have to be a gardening expert to be a volunteer, anybody at any level of expertise is welcome to join our community garden.
'People don't even have to get your hands dirty if you don't want to, just having the help would be fantastic.'
The charity is supported by Norwich City Council, The Norfolk Community Foundation and The National lottery along with others.
For more information on Grapes Hill Community Garden, visit: www.grapeshillcommunitygarden.org or ring Fran Ellington on 07729540482.