It was a busy end to a busy year. We packed out the Bevy pub for our Annual General Meeting followed as ever by music and dancing. We had over 40 people at our Christmas lunch where Jo and her team served up a hot roast dinner on open fires and army ovens. Then finally it was all aboard the Santa Bus for its 20th year anniversary as we made our way around Moulsecoomb raising money for charities like ourselves.
While people know about our workdays and our work at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) and Moulsecoomb Primary, here’s some of the things that also happen at the garden. And i’m not talking about the foxes and badgers who enjoy ‘lets-dig-up-the-paths’ when we’re not there.
Thanks to now becoming a centre that can deliver the AQA Unit Award Scheme, pupils we work with can have their achievements formally recognised, rewarded with a certificate each time they successfully complete a unit of learning.
We work with the Youth Justice Service and their restorative justice programme, which aims to provide opportunities for young people to make amends for their behaviour by working in their local communities.
Simon, one of the workers said: “The Moulsecoomb Forest garden offers our young people something completely different from what they are used to. They feel they can be themselves and leave behind their offending personas. The project has a massive positive influence in the rehabilitation and restorative development of all the young people who attend.”
Occasionally you might find random bits of art hanging from branches. This is thanks to the Family Trees Project which brings children in care together with their foster carers and parents. One of the organisers told me “The garden has been instrumental in the success of the project. It has provided a calm and inspiring place for the children and their families to undertake activities and talk together. The families have loved seeing the garden across the seasons, climbed trees, discovered different vegetables growing. The trees and flowers have provided materials for the many art activities that the families have enjoyed together. The project has had a direct impact on relationships between foster carers and parents, with them building more trusting relationships together. We could not have done it without the support of the garden.”
Jo and Luc ran a couple of sessions for the Sussex Interpretation Service with nature trails and a hot meal, as part of their organisations team building days.
In the summer Pat ran after school Duke of Edinburgh sessions for BACA pupils that needed to do some volunteering in their community, while in the Easter and summer holidays Moulsecoomb Primary children ran around the garden like headless chickens. With the chickens joining in.
We even had Miranda, the comedian up there recently and Jo’s daughter held her wedding reception at the garden, thanks in part to the area by the cabin. Which brings me onto Keith Wilkinson. We sadly lost Keith this year, who was not just an amazing gardener but also brought his building skills. His greatest legacy was the cabin area – let’s call it Keith’s corner – which he managed with an army of volunteers to turn from overgrown bumpy wasteland into a stunning special space that we now can’t imagine not having. In December, we held a celebration with family and friends at the garden and planted a tree in his memory.
I know our small community garden can have a big impact on peoples lives. Especially those that have been ignored, discarded or dismissed – to realise their full potential, to make them feel part of something. But its also important that we work with others, so that our roots reach out across the area so we can all support more people – while also creating a magical space for wildlife to live and thrive.