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Article: From Tennis Courts to A Blooming Oasis: The Journey of Betws Community Garden

From Tennis Courts to A Blooming Oasis: The Journey of Betws Community Garden

From Tennis Courts to A Blooming Oasis: The Journey of Betws Community Garden

We were welcomed to Betws Park (a stone's throw away from our Ammanford Roastery) to partake in one of their volunteering sessions. It was truly inspiring to see students from Coleg Sir Gar being warmly invited to plant, make nutritious fertiliser, and learn about gardening. Here’s the story of how this remarkable community garden came to life and continues to thrive.

An Interview with Ted one of the co founders of Betws Community Gardens:

How It All Began

"The Betws Community Garden started as a vision to transform neglected tennis courts into a thriving green space for everyone. The Betws Community Council reached out to me, knowing my passion for gardening and the outdoors. When I first saw the old tennis courts, I was taken aback by their poor condition—holes in the concrete, broken fences, rubbish, and even drug paraphernalia. It took over 300 wheelbarrow loads of debris removal before we could even see the courts properly.

Three years ago, with the Betws Council, we applied for grants from the Heritage Fund UK and the Welsh Government. By summer 2022, we secured the funding. With a vision in mind, I sketched out plans and collaborated with TRJ, a local civil engineering company, to lay the groundwork. Volunteers then worked tirelessly to plant trees, sow meadows, build vegetable beds, and create sensory gardens, transforming the space into a vibrant community hub."

Community Involvement and Encouragement

"Community participation has been vital to our garden's success. We engage with the community through social media and collaborations with local institutions like Coleg Sir Gar, Betws School, Manor Road Activities Centre, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. Volunteers come in regularly, some weekly, others when they need a moment of peace in nature. High-visibility clothing helps us engage with the public, explaining the benefits of outdoor activities for wellness and well-being. We're always eager to welcome new volunteers of all ages and abilities."

What We Grow

"Our garden boasts a diverse range of plants. We have an orchard with 12 heritage varieties of apples and pears, aiming to reintroduce these old fruits. Our raised vegetable beds, accessible to all, feature garden peas, radishes, onions, carrots, broad beans, lettuce, cabbage, runner beans, and a variety of soft fruits. We also have a dedicated area for pumpkins, marrows, and squashes, and a herb garden with a seating area where visitors can harvest herbs."

 Promoting Sustainable Gardening

"Sustainability is at the core of our practices. We share seeds, plants, and beans, and compost all leaves from Betws Park. Grass clippings, eggshells, cardboard, tea bags, and Coaltown coffee and chaff are all composted to enrich our soil. We also make our own organic liquid fertiliser from comfrey plants growing in our wildflower meadow."

 Educational Programs and Workshops

"Education is a priority for us. Students from Coleg Sir Gar have been involved for three seasons, and many continue to volunteer after graduation. We partner with local schools, running weekly gardening sessions and hands-on projects like building bee and bug homes. A local beekeeper even brought an empty hive and protective gear to teach children about bees. We plan to expand our educational offerings with workshops on woodcraft, willow basket making, and more, using materials from our own willow trees."

Supporting the Garden

"The wider community can support us by donating native bulbs or participating in team-building days. We welcome ideas and involvement from other groups and businesses."

Future Plans

"Our vision for the future includes engaging more people, teaching valuable gardening skills, and promoting mental health through outdoor activities. We aim to enhance nature and biodiversity, creating a safe, dog-friendly space that encourages knowledge about food growing and nature."

Rewards and Reflections

"The most rewarding aspect has been seeing former students return to help, children's enthusiasm during outdoor activities, and the positive feedback from visitors. Local businesses have supported us with materials and labor, and the smiles on volunteers' faces after a day in the garden are priceless."

Advice for Aspiring Community Gardeners

"If you're looking to start your own community garden, my advice is to start small. Focus on a few key areas, like vegetable beds or an orchard, and gradually expand. Collaboration and community support are crucial. Our journey from a neglected space to a vibrant garden involved many challenges, but with passion and teamwork, we created something truly special. Consider documenting your progress, as it’s rewarding to see the transformation over time."

It’s clear that starting and maintaining a community garden is a collective effort, but the rewards—both for individuals and the community—are immense. We've thoroughly enjoyed supplying Betws Park with chaff and coffee, and it's been rewarding to see these materials turned into healthy fertiliser and contribute to the bountiful vegetable harvests. Ted kindly sent us back to work with some fresh lettuce for the Coaltown team, which we all thoroughly enjoyed with our lunch.

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