Belhaven Community Garden Blog

Garden Outreach – Carey’s blog

Autumn 2022

Belhaven Green Team

Everyone should have the opportunity to be part of and feel valued as a member of their community.  At Belhaven Green team we support people with learning disabilities to be part of our team.  We want to increase the confidence, social skills and presence of people in our local community for them to feel connected and help them pursue their goals and dreams.

When I first met the Green Team Volunteers, we did some person-centred planning to help establish their volunteering goals.  Michael was keen to paint and Gordon dreamed of having his own lawn mower!

Michael has mobility issues so painting was the perfect job for him in the garden where he could sit and enjoy the process of sanding, cleaning and painting and seeing his work through from start to finish.  He did such a good job at painting the furniture for us that he was asked by the hospital management to paint furniture for the hospital too!  Gordon also has his own lawnmower now which we got from zero waste and then took to ‘fixing for a future’ for some minor adjustments and to have the blades sharpened.  He is thrilled with it and looking forward to getting back to mowing next year!  We had a very special and rather emotional moment when the brothers planted a remembrance rose in the new memorial garden.

When the hospital shut temporarily BGT decamped to Lauderdale Park.  We were very grateful to Kenny the head gardener who met with us and gave us a tour of the gardens and gave us some beds to look after!

Kenny looks out for us every week and he thanks the team for their hard work, they are thrilled to be helping, they used to work in Lauderdale as young lads and they love the feedback that Kenny gives them.

Luckily there is also a fabulous covered space where we can run other activities when it rains.  Recently we painted stones with poppies on them to place at the War Memorial.  We have decorated terracotta pots and planted hyacinths – we are all looking forward to finding out what colours our blooms will be!  We also made bird feeders recently and hung some of them outside the café windows for customers to enjoy watching the birds feed while they have cake and a cuppa.  Being involved with the BGT has brought so much joy and an enormous sense of pride to the volunteers who are now keen to have their own allotment!

The Beehive Garden – grow in nature sessions

The beautiful Beehive Garden is an extension of the Nursery School’s outdoor space where we offer opportunities for the little ones to get outside, explore, play and learn, connect with nature and each other.  We run weekly sessions with the nursery children providing fun and creative outdoor activities that are run by volunteers from Dunbar Grammar School.  The volunteers help us design and deliver activities.  The latest activity in the Beehive Garden saw the children, running, skipping, hopping round the garden collecting items such as leaves, twigs and feathers to make nature wands, which they promptly used to turn their volunteers into toads and mice and slugs – and back again, phew!  Many of our volunteers are studying childcare and it’s great that they are able to see how their course work fits with a ‘real life’ setting.  They can see how outdoor play fosters things like imagination, physical, social and emotional development.

The volunteers are building credentials and skills that will pay off when the time comes for them to apply for a job, college or uni.  The nursery children are having lots of adventures and unbeknownst to them their wee brains are growing just like the wild flowers in the garden.  Thirteen of our young volunteers have signed up to do extra volunteering hours at the nursery to help them gain more experience and to help them achieve their first Saltire Awards.  The Saltire Awards are the Scottish Government’s way of celebrating, recognising and rewarding the commitment, contribution and achievements of young volunteers in Scotland.

Back in the Beehive Garden the children are also enjoying the new garden resident –  the aptly named Spikey the hedgehog!   A wee bit of nature intervention from Jen at the Dunbar Hedgehog group who donated a hedgehog home and helped us put it in a good location.  It is hidden in the nursery grounds where little children can see it but not get to it! The children have enjoyed learning about hedgehog habitats and have set up a feeding station as well as a footprint tunnel to capture footprints, which look like teeny tiny hands!  They also get to see the footage from the webcam which is all very exciting. The garden really is a place of fun and discovery and the polytunnel which is under construction will provide loads more amazing opportunities for children to enjoy nature at work, planting and caring for fruit and vegetables watching them grow, learning the art of patience, harvesting and best of all eating!

The Polytunnel Sessions

Every fourth Saturday of the month we run volunteering sessions in the Beehive Garden and encourage parents, grandparents and anyone who has some spare time to come along and help out.  At the moment we are concentrating on the polytunnel.  When construction of the polytunnel began someone said to me it’s easier than you think, quite straightforward really. I am glad I can’t remember who said that!  We cleared the site in May, luckily the allotments next to us were being cleared by digger drivers and I managed to persuade the workers to come and lend a hand on our plot too, saving us weeks of backbreaking work for a round of beers!  Once the site was cleared, we were able to measure up and dig the foundations and set the first poles in place.  I have to confess the mechanics of the build have definitely been a bit bamboozling but we are lucky to have some very talented volunteers who bring with them a wealth of knowledge and skills! We have had some laughs and swears at trying to iron out some of the trickier bits, luckily the nursery is shut on a Saturday!

Belhaven Buddies

We are very hopeful that we will be able to start another strand to our outreach work in the New Year.  We will be running intergenerational sessions at Belhaven hospital, training up young people in Dementia Awareness and bringing patients and young volunteers together in mutually beneficial activities like wellbeing walks in Belhaven Community Garden

It’s all about connecting the generations with nature and with each other.