Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

News - Goldie Leigh Growers (Aug 2010)

There’s a patch of land at the trust’s Goldie Leigh site that’s about to undergo a transformation, if Caroline Pickup has anything to do with it.

News - Goldie Leigh Growers 2 (Aug 2010)

An occupational therapist based at Somerset Villa, Caroline is Project Manager for the Growing Goldie Leigh scheme, which aims to turn the plot into a productive fruit and vegetable garden. She explains: “We’re working in partnership with Growing Greenwich, which provides training and support to enable local groups to grow their own food. Anyone on the Goldie Leigh site who has mental health issues or learning disabilities can get involved, and in future we’re aiming to include clients from the Assertive Outreach Team at the Erith Centre and the Bexley Dispersed Intensively Supported Housing (DISH) Project. We also hope to involve volunteers, who may for instance be ex-service users, in running the scheme.

“We started in April by sowing seeds and today we’re planting peas, tomatoes and beans. The group is enthusiastic about the project and people turn up regularly every week. I think it’s good for people to get out of doors and take part in a group activity where you can improve your health and have the satisfaction of seeing – and eating - the fruits of your labour.”

The scheme aims to promote social inclusion and reduce health inequality and is part of a network of similar local projects coordinated by Growing Greenwich, which is overseen by Greenwich co-operative development agency (GCDA). The groups benefit from gaining the skills and knowledge to grow their own food and each person gets to take home some of the healthy produce. The rest is distributed by Growing Greenwich to participating outlets including Greenwich Community Food Co-op, local cafes, restaurants and caterers, with proceeds helping to fund the work of GCDA.

The area set aside for the project comprises around a quarter of an acre, mid way between Somerset Villa and 181 Lodge Hill, of previously derelict land. It is now neatly fenced, with two good sized beds and more to follow. Growing Greenwich Project Coordinator, Davey Haycock-Wilson, says that the site is not without its challenges. “There’s a lot of debris in the soil, which makes it hard to dig, and a there has been a fire here in the past, so we had to test the soil to make sure it was safe.”

The solution has been to import topsoil which should give the plants a good start in life. The paths between the beds will be covered in wood chippings that were produced from trees felled on the Goldie Leigh site, so the garden has good ecological credentials and will be attractive as well as productive.

In addition to the growing beds that will one day take up the lion’s share of the site, there are plans for water butts to capture rain water and bee hives to provide fresh honey. Surveying the budding garden, Caroline is pleased with what has been achieved so far: “It’s been a learning experience for all of us, but today we can really begin to see progress and I think that the sight of growing crops will spur everyone on to finish the rest of the garden.

If you would like to know more about Growing Goldie Leigh, contact Caroline Pickup at caroline.pickup@oxleas.nhs.uk

Photo captions:

1. Caroline Pickup watches on as the Growing Goldie Leigh group plant peas, tomatoes and beans.

2. Everything is taking shape.

Published on 24th August 2010