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2022 has been a year of expansion and exploration at Global Gardens both in terms of the people involved in the project and our programme of activities. This blog presents an overview of what we've got up to at the gardens this year.

Volunteer Garden Sessions

The Global Gardens Volunteer Garden Sessions have continued to be the backbone of the project - enabled thanks to support from the National Lottery Community Fund. These sessions are the time when we maintain and enhance the community garden space as well as sharing cups of tea - and occasionally home-made cake! Alongside the regular Saturday and Wednesday morning sessions (10am-1pm), we introduced a Thursday evening session for the summer to make the most of the longer days and keep on top of the watering. This was particularly important given the dry weather of the summer!

This year, Saturday sessions were led by John, Manon and Poppy. Wednesday sessions were led by Bethan and Thursday sessions were led by John. In total, we hosted 99 sessions (44 Saturday and 42 Wednesday sessions and 13 Thursday sessions) totalling 1,700 volunteer hours.

Alongside the regular Saturday Volunteer Garden Sessions, we were joined by over 70 students via the Global Gardens Cardiff University Student Volunteer Group. The student group have worked really hard this year to manage the orchard area and create an accessible social space within the orchard. They also got involved in other garden activities including turning the compost heap and planting fruit trees.

Ella and Cara were Lead Student Volunteers for the academic year of 2021-2022. Both medics, in their role, they brought a shared interest in social prescribing to the garden. This led to creation of the Global Gardens Social Prescribing Working Group, supported with mentoring from Isla Fisher, Grow Cardiff thanks to funding from Social Farms and Gardens Wales. We were thrilled that Cara and Ella received recognition of their stellar work as Lead Student Volunteers - they were awarded Volunteering Group of the Year 2021/2022 prize at this year’s Cardiff University Societies and Volunteering Awards. For the academic year 2022-2023, Ella moved on to pastures new as she became a fully qualified Doctor. We are lucky that Cara decided to continue her role alongside new Lead Student Volunteers Pax and Abby.

Crops of the Year

This year in the kitchen garden, we grew a range of crops. Highlights in the veg garden included: early Broad beans, three varieties of Kale (Green Curly, Red Curly, Cavalo Nero and Red Russian), Chard, Garlic, Potatoes and Squash. In the polytunnel, we grew a range of Winter salads this year, as well as Tomatoes and Chillies into the summer. Chilli and Tomato seeds were mainly supplied from Chris Fowler a.k.a. Welsh Dragon Chilli. In the fruit patch, we harvested Blackcurrants, Jostaberries, Raspberries, Apples, Pears and Plums. It was a particularly good year for Currants and Pears. Yum!

This autumn we sowed a lot of broad beans for overwintering and an early 2023 crop and as a green manure. We also sowed an area of rye – with the plan of harvesting and processing grain for our first Global Gardens loaf next year!

In total, we estimate that we harvested around 180kgs kilos of veg this year. However, this was what was recorded and we think a lot of extra produced was taken home before we managed to weigh it! Next year we are keen to develop a better system of capturing how much produce we have grown.

Pulses Festival

We were delighted to take part in the UK and Ireland Seed Sovereignty Programme Seed Exchanges where we trialled a range of French beans and 10 varieties of peas. The trials culminated in a #PeasPlease Pulses Festival which included a series of community chef collaborations. Chefs included: Herbivore, Vaida @OneSmallSpoon, Setondji's Sunshine Kitchen and Uncle Pali. As part of the Good Food Cardiff Autumn Festival we also hosted a workshop on plant-based proteins and thenutritional benefits of pulses with dietician Steph. The Pulses Festival was supported by My Food Community, Food Sense Wales, as well as the UK and Ireland Seed Sovereignty Programme.

Workshops and Courses

Alongside our regular Volunteer Garden Sessions, we hosted 23 workshops and 1 course at the garden that were attended by 252 people - including the Fruit Tree Care and Climate Action series -and one Ediculture course , thanks to support from the the National Lottery Community Fund 'Together for Our Planet' Programme.

Fruit Tree Care

Our Fruit Tree Care series were attended included: 1) winter pruning with Kai Lange at Global Gardens in February, 2) a winter pruning workshop in February, 3) fruit tree care in March and 4) summer fruit pruning in July and 5) in November we held a workshop on the preservation of fruit in collaboration with Orchard Cardiff.(including drying, jarring and juicing) all with Stephen Watts at Coed Hills Forest Garden. According to one participant of the pruning workshop:

"It was really useful and I went straight home and put my new skills into practice on one of our apple trees."

As well as building skills in supporting the health of fruit trees, we also hosted a ‘Apple Day’ festival at Global Gardens in collaboration with Orchard Cardiff, focussed on celebrating apple diversity attended by over 45 people. Activities included juicing, tasting and apple identification.


Between April to July, we hosted an Ediculture 8-part course facilitated by Stephen Watts. Focussed around building skills in edible culture. 16 people, including 11 regular Global Gardens volunteers joined the fortnightly day long workshops to learn about: wild food and foraging, food growing, designing good growing spaces, nutrition, seasonal rhythms, herbal medicine, nature connection and working with others. The aim of these sessions was to build skills in personal and community resilience and connection.

Reflecting on the course, one participant reflected that it was:

"A fantastic opportunity to gain practical experience and knowledge on edible-culture."

At the Ediculture sessions, we were lucky to have delicious lunches cooked by Global Gardens Volunteers Ruth and Anna. Highlights include: Wild Garlic Soup, Summer Fruit Pudding, Gooseberry and Blackcurrant tarts and Multi-seeded cookies. Check out the recipe cards created by Ruth and Anna for seasonal inspiration!

Biodiversity in the Garden

Alongside growing food, this year we have been working to build a better understanding of the flora and fauna residing in the Global Gardens space. This includes hosting three workshops on wildlife in the garden and wild plants attended by 24 people. .

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch

In January, we hosted a RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch. We were joined by Joanne from RSPB Cymru who guided us through basic approaches to bird spotting (belly, beaks and feet) and a timed Bird Watch, where we recorded our spottings. We also made seasonal bird balls. In the Bird Watch we saw lots of Sparrows, some Feral and Wood Pigeons, Blackbirds, Blue tits, a Great tit, a Wren, sparrows, a Robin, Goldfinches and a Crow. We didn't spot any Long-tailed tits though. Joanne explained the beast from the east in 2019 led to a 50% decline in these garden favourites, Hopefully now population numbers are back on the rise - we made some #birdballs to help the birds through the winter months and will be watching out for them at the Big Garden Bird Watch in January 2023.

Native Plant Walk

In June, we hosted a Native Plant Identification workshop with Dr. Peter Sturgess, supported by SewBrec. Guided by Peter, we identified 108 native plant species in the garden. As Lucy., a regular garden volunteer who attended the walk and wrote a blog on it:

“I already knew of some plants on the walk. Herb Robert, sticky grass, bird’s-foot trefoil (‘eggs and bacon’ to my mum) and ragwort are pillars of childhood nostalgia for me (the latter hosts the black and yellow caterpillars my brother and I kept as ‘pets’… oh dear). But the new names I learnt that morning have stuck with me; hairy tare, Yorkshire fog, cat’s-ear, tall melilot, spear thistle, sun spurge. Beautiful names for just a few of our many native plants that deserve a second glance and a closer look.

Big Butterfly Count

In July, we hosted an 'Introduction to Butterflies' talk by Dr. Deborah Sazer – which focussed on butterfly species in Wales, also supported by SewBrec. We also did a Butterfly Count in the garden - identifying 4 species of butterflies including the Small copper, Common blue, Ringlet and Small white.

Making and Mending Club

As a project, alongside building skills in growing food organically and seasonal and nourishing cooking, one of our aims is to build skills in sustainable crafts. This year, we have continued to host the Making and Mending club led by textile artist Cat Lewis, thanks to continued support from the National Lottery Community Fund. The focus of the group is to skill share on various techniques related to sustainable textiles: including growing and processing sustainable textiles and working with natural dyes. The aim is also to provide a safe and welcoming shared space that improves mental wellbeing and reduces anxiety and isolation.There are now over 20 people on the Making and Mending Whatsapp group.

Highlights of the year include: wild weaving, hand stitching and sashiko mending, needle felting, printing with botanical inks and continuing to finish and spin the linen grown at Global Gardens in 2021 Following on from the success of the cultivation of a small area of flax at Global Gardens, the group also grow a larger area of flax at St Fagans National Museum of History. In December, thgroup have also been creating sustainable Christmas decorations for the Secret Garden Café. As well as helping to make the busy cafe located in Bute Park festive, they are supporting the Cardiff Christmas Dinner for young people who are care-experienced. Next year the Making and Mending Club hope to encourage participants to lead sessions, to give a more diverse range of skills and teachers.

Forest School

This year, thanks to continued support from the National Lottery Community Fund, we hosted 22 forest school sessions led by Johana Hartwig and attended by 67 families. These family-led sessions for 1 to 7 year olds and aim to support child-led play and nature connection through seasonal arts and crafts. They also often include tasty snacks cooked on the fire. Below is an overview of the 2022 Global Gardens forest school year.

In January, we made St.Dwynwen woven hearts and baked spiced apples cooked. In February, we made kites made from rubbish blown on site by the storms including Hurricane Eunice and baked chocolatey bananas. In March, we made bird nests and clay birds and baked focaccia on the fire. In April, we celebrated Easter crafting some Easter Bonnets and worked on the forest school family veg patch. We also made falafel with wild garlic and puff pastry pizzas with wild garlic and kale. In May, we carried on working on the family veg patch, sowed some salads and made canvas draw-string pouches with bamboo toggles coloured using natural dyes and elderflower and buckwheat fritters. In June, we made tiles for the mud kitchen and shared popcorn and nettles crisps. In July, we made insect houses out of recycled materials and midsummer headdresses and veg and evening primrose fritters on the fire. In August, we made recycled packaging boats to float in a paddling pool and herb happiness bundles and shared poached plum and blackberries around the fire. We also hosted a special session for sanctuary seeking families in collaboration with the Welsh Refugee Council Children in Need playgroup. In September, we made clay signs printed with leaves, wood cookie necklaces and evergreen masks and shared puff pastry courgette pizza. In October, we made insect houses and used a number of green wood working tools including a brace and a bit, screwdriver and hammer. We learnt about how hole sizes and materials make good habitats for different insects. We also made rosemary and garlic twizzle sticks. In November we took leaf prints and played with the parachute and ate roasted chestnuts. In December, we made evergreen wreaths and made mince pies.

Outdoor play at Global Gardens would not be outdoor play without Johana’s special vegan hot chocolate which accompanies story-time. Ïor story-time, Johana chooses books linked to nature and the seasons. This year, some favourites include:

-The worm and the bird by Coralie Bickford-Smith

-Home by Patricia Hegarty and Brittany Teckentrup

-The wild woods by Simon James

-Sam and Dave dig a hole by Max Barnett

-House held up by trees by Ted Kooser

-Superworm by Julia Donaldson

-Tidy by Emily Gravett

-The star that Fell by Karen Hayles

-The tiny seed by Eric Carle

-Sylvia and Bird by Catherine Raynor

Between November and December, we took part in the Welsh Government and Coed Cadw #MyTreeOurForest scheme offering a free tree to every household in Wales. As part of the programme, there are ten different species of native and broadleaf trees available to choose from (Hazel; Rowan; Hawthorn; Silver Birch; Crab Apple; Sessile Oak; Dogwood; Dog Rose; Field Maple; and Elder). We distributed 89 native trees to local residents. As they mature they’ll lock up carbon, fight the effects of climate change and support wildlife. We will continue to be a hub in the new year between February to March so do pop on by if you would like a tree!

Health and well-being in the garden

It has been lovely that the garden has been used by a range of groups to support health and well-being. This has been enhanced by the development of our Global Gardens classroom space designed by Hugo Keene QOCA and built by Arthur Goodfellow and Jack Welbourne. We hosted three Women’s Wellness Workshops with herbalist Kate Aster including on Post partum recovery, Breastfeeding health and the Nervous system and on theImmune system. Iona Hannagan-Lewis hosted four Yoga Classes and Sinnead Ali hosted three Women’s Full Moon Gatherings.

Artist Residencies at the Garden

This year we were delighted to host four artists residencies in the garden thanks to support from the Gwendoline and Margaret Davies Trust and the National Lottery Community Fund.

Seasonal Connections

Two Seasonal Connections Artist Residencies centered around cyclic patterns within the garden and the solar, lunar and the Celtic festivities which traditionally celebrated them with artists Emily Unsworth-White and storyteller and musician Cath Little.

Emily investigated the folklore of animals and trees, exploring how they represent certain qualities of times of the year. She created a series of 8 banners connected to the seasonal calendar and led a series of free felting workshops based at the garden.

Through the workshops, Emily supported participants to felt their ‘familiar’ into a puppet. The group began by trying out a number of techniques to ‘find’ their familiar. These included a spinning dance which ties points of the compass and calendar to animals. Emily explains:

"I chose to lead workshops in animal puppet making as I intended for the participants to experience the garden and their surroundings in new ways. When guiding a puppet, we become sensitive to new ways of being, of movement and interaction. Participants were encouraged to explore the garden, the season and the materials with curiosity and playfulness. Over the sessions the group explored the details of their chosen animal and experimented with movement, combining the capabilities of the wool with the observed movements of the animal itself. As each puppet evolved they took their maker on a maiden flight. The puppets moved through the garden surroundings with grace and ease, interacting with each other and the garden space. The wool used in this workshop was sourced from a rewilding project in the Peak District. The techniques taught to form the puppets included needle felting, wet felting, carding and hand stitching."

As part of her residency, Cath has led a series of events centred around seasonal connections at the garden through story and song. This includes: 1) a Wassail gathering in January where we sang for the health of the fruit trees, the garden and the community, 2) a Beltane gathering in July where we celebrated the midsummer with song and music in collaboration with Oasis World Choir, 3) an Autumn equinox gathering where we gave thanks for the harvest and launched the ‘Seasonal Connections’ banners created by Emily, 4) a Samhain gathering where we marked the drawing of the energy into the earth and watched a puppet show featuring puppets made in the ‘Felt Your Familiar’ workshops, 5) a Winter Solstice gathering where we were joined by musician Heulwen and artists in residents Beth Smith and Natasha Dawkes. At this last event at the garden for the year, we listened to Beth read a poem that was accompanied by a response of movement by Tash, lit candles and sang some songs for festive cheer. These events welcomed the wider community and were attended by over 137 people in total. Cath is currently recording some of the songs and stories linked to seasonal calendar. We also plan to continue the seasonal connections events and the next one will be in January – a wassail – to open activities at the garden.

Together for Our Planet

Between November to December we hosted two early career artists - Natasha Dawkes and Beth Smith - as part of the Together for Our Planet Programme. Through the residencies Beth and Tash spent time in the garden, getting to know the space and the community. They led two community workshops centred around nature connection and a community celebration in the garden. As part of the residency they also received mentoring from Johana Hartwig and Emily Unsworth-White - both of whom are more estabilshed artists and have a connection of working in the garden as artists. Wacth this space for their collaborative spoken word and dance piece which will be recorded in January.

Explorations in Natural Colour

This summer Brynn Copnall also awarded a Grow Wild Youth Project Explorations in Natural Colour. As part of this project, Brynn co-facilitated a workshop on natural dyeing with Cat Lewis, Making and Mending Club coordinator. Plant material was bashe and tied up in bundles and placed in the woodchip pile for a few months, providing heat needed to transfer the colour from the plants to the fabric.

Brynn reflects:

“The dyed samples have been turned into bunting and put on display for our autumn festivities at the gardens. They will now live there until the colours fade and the fabric begins to break down again into the earth.”

As part of this project, an online talk from textile artist Zoe Burt on the history of natural dyes was also facilitated - attended by 29 people.

Climate Action

As a project, we are aware of the urgent need to respond to the climate emergency and take climate action and we are trying to do our bit! Alongside the 'Together for Our Planet' artists residencies, we hosted a series of workshops and webinars on climate action. Including on Building resilience in the garden with Kim Stoddart, on sustainable textiles and fibresheds with Zoe Burt. We are also hosting a cob-oven building workshop and composting workshop in the new year.

Planetary Pledge

In December, at the ‘Together for Our Planet’ community gathering, attendees were invited to make a #PlanetaryPledge today and share it with the local community. A selection of the portraits taken by photographer Dan Green and pledges will be displayed on the Global Gardens fence, raising the profile of climate action amongst the wider community and encouraging more people to get involved and take climate action.