In January 2021 GROW Batheaston received a grant from the BWCE Fund. Only one year old at the time, this community group has really ‘grown’ since then! Ali Rogers and Alison Harper tell the story so far.

Grow Batheaston is a local community group, coming up to its second birthday and soon to achieve charitable status. A lot has happened in those two years, we have been on a rollercoaster of sharing inspiration and ideas, zoom meetings, putting those ideas into practice, more zoom meetings, more inspiration and ideas, with a healthy dose of creativity thrown in!

The main impetus behind the initial forming of the group was a realisation that in a crisis such as the pandemic we were all experiencing, the security of our food and nourishment was of paramount importance.

We were seven individuals, all with a keen interest in growing and gardening. This has expanded into a community group with a wider remit whose main intentions are to:

Strengthen community

Create food security

Encourage biodiversity

Promote sustainable living

To achieve these aims we have, amongst other things, set up sports clubs such as netball, junior football and adult walking football. We have planted many fruit and nut trees on the Elmhurst Estate and won grants to provide wildflower meadow areas. We have planted 500 native saplings on the meadows and planted hundreds of snowdrops, crocus and bluebell bulbs. We have set up various clubs and interest groups including a Bee Club, Hen Club, Wildlife Group, Wellbeing Group. We also had a very successful Batheaston Arts Trail in October last year where over thirty artists showed their work.

We are very fortunate to have been awarded a £5000 grant from the BWCE Fund which was originally intended to set up an ethical and zero waste community shop. However premises proved very difficult to find and from having one poor local shop we suddenly had two that were better stocked although these did not reflect our ethical standards and our wish to support and promote local growers. We set up our own Suma account and with the help of the Plunkett Foundation, discussed the possibility of a mobile unit, or an online service.

Several of the group have experience of permaculture growing and soon discovered a shared interest in the benefits of forest gardening; a way of growing nutritious and sometimes unusual edible and useful plants in a way that works with nature and is less demanding on resources and relies on the soil and the plants working together in harmony.

As we already had an area in the village where we could cultivate these plants and ideas, it seemed to make sense to transfer this funding to the realisation of this community garden and also to promote a series of local markets which could support local food growers and traders, also incorporating share and repair, bike repairs, artists and makers, Grow Batheaston initiated a series of plant and seed swaps last summer which proved popular and these will be continued as part of the market. The garden will also be an educational space where we can share experiences of growing food in an informal and welcoming setting, hopefully raising questions of the accessibility and nutritional benefits of using wild and sometimes forgotten or undiscovered plants in our diets. This will include work with local secondary pupils and young people within Batheaston and the surrounding areas.

We are very grateful for the opportunity to change the direction slightly of the terms of use for these funds and are very excited about the possibilities that this will bring.

We have lots of plans for the future with more events and volunteering opportunities planned.

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