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Phew, we made it through 2023! This year has presented a few challenges to Global Gardens Project - including (not surprisingly) the weather as well as the programming of events.

We are happy and very relieved to be in a position at the end of 2023 where we: 1) have a much clearer understanding of Cardiff Council's events application process and how our project can continue in line with it, 2) can therefore continue with our proposed programme of activities and, 3) are permitted to host a fire pit at forest school. Hurrah! The weather remains an elusive mystery to which we humbly surrender!

A huge thanks to all of the session leaders and volunteers for sticking with the process, to community members for choosing to share their stories about the impact of Global Gardens upon their lives as well as Councillor Jennifer Burke, Julie Morgan AM, the Future Generations Commission and Cardiff Council Parks team for choosing to support Global Gardens Project.

#GGGrowAlong Open Day

Our 2023 programme of activities has included: volunteer garden sessions, social prescribing sessions, forest school sessions, a Making and Mending club and a range of workshops and courses supporting community-based learning and connection. In this blog, we provide an overview of this year's activities...

Garden Volunteer Sessions

We hosted a total of 91 volunteer sessions in 2023 (45 Saturday sessions and 46 Wednesday sessions). At these sessions, we totalled approximately 675 volunteer hours and harvested 317kg of veg - including 73kg of plums, 70kg of apples and 51kg of tomatoes!

Wednesday sessions led by Bethan have had a regular group of dedicated volunteers. Special shout out to Kate, Ruth, Skye, Sharon, Lo!

Saturday sessions led by John and Manon have had a more transient range of volunteers, alongside some enthusiastic regulars including Andy, Charlie, Kerry and Nick - big shout out to them too! We have also been lucky to have help from the Global Gardens Student Volunteer Group led by the 2022-2023 Lead Student Volunteers Pax, Abby, Cara alongside Farideh and Emma who have joined the team for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Garden Harvest

This year was a challenging growing year at Global Gardens, as for many UK growers. We went from unexpected heat in the early summer to an overwhelming amount of rain in the late summer. Our brassica seedlings were hammered by slugs, even though we had put out a defense of Pipes' and Pop'n'Hops finest bin - end beer! However, we had a bumper crop of garlic, a good squash harvest and a bountiful supply of chard throughout the year. We also harvested 2.5kgs of rye just in time before the August rains came in thanks to the help of Manon and Brynn.

'Festival of Tomatoes'

The tomato harvest was also fantastic this year thanks to the early summer sunshine.

In June, as part of the #HaveaGrowDay national celebration of community gardens, we hosted a #GGGrowAlong where we invited local residents to take home a tomato plant and "grow along" with us.

In September, we celebrated our tomato harvest and held a 'Festival of Tomatoes' as part of the Food Cardiff #GoodFoodCardiffAutumnFestival. This included a workshop on seed-saving tomatoes led by Poppy and a Tomato taste trial of the 8 varieties growing. We considered plant health, growth habit, productivity and taste. 'Pink Georgian' and 'Gardener’s Delight' varieties were the joint overall winners. Vaida @OneSmallSpoon also made some delicious home made baked beans - you can find the recipe here.

Recipes from the Garden

Over the year, Lead Recipe Coordinator Ruth has been gathering and sharing seasonal recipes featuring produce from the garden - including Pickled Nasturitum seeds and Chinese Plum sauce. She also wrote a fantastic blog on how how to cook crumbles 'Crumble-a-rama'.

Learning in the Garden

Alongside the regular twice-weekly volunteer garden sessions, we also hosted a number of workshops including: a fruit tree pruning workshop with Kai, a series of cob oven workshops with Jack and a composting workshop with composting cooperative Compost Mentis, with a focus on humanure. We also hosted a wassail with singer and storyteller Cath Little to toast to the good health of our fruit trees at the beginning of the year!

Improving access in the Garden

In May, we found out that we were one of seven community projects in the UK to be awarded funding from Grow Wild, the national outreach learning programme of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This funding will help us improve access in the garden - specifically via installation of a disabled access pathway to our raised beds - and create a sensory therapeutic gardeb. Over the last few months, we have been doing the groundwork necessary for laying of paving slabs. We will continue working on creation of a sensory therapeutic garden area in the spring.

Seed Saving Art

The Global Gardens Seed Saving Art project has continued which aims to builds skills in seed saving as well as celebrating open pollinated seed. In September, we put a call out for local artists interested in illustrating one of our featured 2023 crops and received some beautiful artworks...

Seed artwork (L-R Top to Bottom): Landcress: Emily Unsworth-White; Green in the snow: Shauna C; Red Mustard: Sabina Collado Montes; Flax: Skye Kember; Vetch: Nick Minardi; Rye: Jack Welbourne;Mugwort: Karina Geddes; Marjoram: Eden; Lovage: Ellie Clements; Rocket: Claire Trumble; 'Gardener's Delight' Kerry Bryant.

We are chuffed that local independents Waterloo Tea and Ethical Boutique - both on Whitchurch Road are distributing our seed packets this year. Artworks will be on display at Waterloo Tea between January to February 2024. We will also be sharing seed at the Railway Street Gardens 'Big Splott Seed Swap' and the Chapter 'Seedy Sunday' in February 2024.  

Forest School

This year, we have continued developing the outdoor play area at Global Gardens. Thanks to support from the Millennium Stadium Charitable Trust and Social Farms and Gardens we have been able to offer subsidised family-led forest school sessions to local families, including sanctuary seeking families. We hosted a total of 11 sessions for 1-7 year olds and 10 sessions for 7-11 year olds.

In the 1-7 year old sessions led by forest school leader Johana Hartwig with support from a number of forest school assistants, families got involved in a range of activities including: charcoal making, bird feeder making, seed sowing in the kitchen garden, beltane crown making, pottery and puppet making.

Under the guidance of Johana, families made some tasty garden snacks including: banana and elderflower fritters, garden greens Thai soup, baba ghanoush, grapes, blackberry and yogurt and roasted chestnuts.

We also read a number of stories at sessions including:

Tidy - Emily Gravett

House Held up by Trees - Ted Kooser

The Treehouse - Joanna Stubbs

Home - Patricia Hegarty and Brittany Teckentrup

We’re going on a bear hunt - retold by Michael Rosen

The Winter Hedgehog - Ann and Reg Cartwright

In the 7-11 year old sessions led by forest school leader Poppy Nicol with support from a number of forest school assistants, families took part in a range of sustainable arts and crafts activities including: making nature mandalas, butterfly wands, hapa zome banners, flower crowns, lavender pillows, leaf rainbows and festive wreaths.

We also cooked up a range of seasonal dishes at the sessions for 7-11 year olds using produce from the garden including: blackcurrant compote, flat breads with tomato salad, basil pesto and herb oil, courgette fritters, sourdough bread, apple and blackberry compote, chard dolmas, plum fruit salad and baked chocolate and banana. Plus the obligatory vegan hot chocolate at every Global Gardens forest school session!

Throughout 2023, we have been working to further enhance the outdoor learning space to support nature-based connection and curiosity-led learning. Kev from Recreate helped instal a vertical climbing net and local plumber and forest school father Karl helped connect up our mud kitchen. We also installed a pop-up theatre.

We are pleased that the Cardiff Council Parks team are supportive of our offering of outdoor learning and that we will be continuing our offering of forest school into 2024, including with a fire pit!

'Growing Together' sessions

One of our visions as a project is to create a welcoming space for sanctuary seekers. Over the summer, we hosted four forest school sessions in the outdoor play area in collaboration with The Birth Partner Project (TBPP) and Welsh Refugee Centre Safe Play Spaces playgroup. We shared garlic flat bread and squash soup, crafted flower crowns and even hosted a dancing session led by one of the mums!

Sanctuary seeking families attending these sessions expressed interest in returning to the garden and specifically sessions focussed around activities supporting health and well-being including herbal remedy making and cooking. This led to development of the ‘Growing Together’ workshops series funded by National Lottery Community Fund in Wales. The first workshop was hosted in Novermber - making fire cider vinegar. We look forwards to continuing these workshops in 2024.

According to Emily Robertson, Project Coordinator at TBPP:

“We see the detrimental impacts of poor quality housing, lack of gardens on wellbeing and the isolation and loneliness associated with the asylum process across our work. We recognise the profound impact having access to green space, creative sessions in the natural environment and welcoming faces and spaces can have on people who have experienced trauma and displacement.”

Fire Cider vinegar made at the first 'Growing Together' session in November

Making and Mending club

The Making and Mending club, which emerged out of a series of Making and Mending sessions hosted at Global Gardens between 2021-2022, has grown from strength to strength this year. The aim of the club is to develop sustainable textiles skills, whilst supporting mental wellbeing. There are now over 48 people on the watsapp group! Facilitated by Cat Lewis, the club is a democratic artist-lead initiative and several of the club members have shared their expertise in the workshop series this year.

Workshops this year have included: sashiko stitching; darning, sowing, harvesting and processing flax ready for spinning; botanical inks as well as a wool spin class. The club has made links with St.Fagans National Museum of History, where a larger area of flax was cultivated. They have hosted workshops in collaboration with the Glamorgan Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and Cardiff Met Sustainability and forged links with Wales Fibreshed. These activities have been kindly supported by the Ashley Foundation.

Sashiko stitching, Club members harvesting flax and Processing flax

'Roots to Health' social prescribing

This spring, we were awarded funding from the NHS North Cardiff cluster to undertake a social prescribing pilot whereby GPs can refer patients to our weekly ‘Roots to Health’ horticultural therapy sessions.

Sessions are co-led by Lucy, qualified occupational therapist, beekeeper and aspiring horticulturalist, supported by one of the gardening team members. The aim of these sessions is to support physical and mental health and well-being through a range of light social gardening activities that support both learning about gardening and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Taking a person-centred approach, the session leader works with the referees to create personal learning goals which are then monitored and evaluated across the sessions. At the sessions so far, we have propagated herbs, harvested, processed seeds and packed seeds and made festive sustainable decorations.

We are really pleased to have the support of GPs at our local surgery Whitchurch Road Surgery. According to local GP Rebecca Towner:

“Global Gardens is offering life changing opportunities for our community with the projects they have been running. I am proud to be part of a surgery that is able to offer our patients gardening and the mental health support that comes with it as a way of social prescribing that could potentially reduce cost of medication and pressure on mental health services in the long run as part of the bigger picture.’”

Biodiversity in the garden

Supported by South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBREC), the Wildlife Trust and Cardiff Local Nature Partnership, we have continued to support community-based learning about biodiversity in the garden. We hosted a number of events including:

-RSPB Big Garden bird watch in January

-Butterfly ID workshop hosted by Ben Williams in August

Planetary Pledge

At the beginning of this year, we installed our #PlanetaryPledge portraits on the garden fence. These images were taken by Dan Green as part of our 'Together for Our Planet' programme of activities supported by The National Lottery Community Fund in Wales based around catalysing individual and community action. These portraits act as prompts to those arriving and those passing of the small acts we can take to work together for the planet.

Edible Cardiff Winter Gathering

In December, we hosted the Edible Cardiff Winter Gathering. Edible Cardiff is a city wide network supporting growers across Cardiff - including local people, groups and organisations. Sophie led a workshop on wreath making, Poppy led a workshop making a healing balm with calendula infused oil, we shared squash soup made with squash from the garden and discussed the future of the network.

Beyond the garden

Beyond the garden, Session Leader John has been learning more about horticulture at Black Mountains College, Session Leader Manon has been volunteering with The Birth Partner Project and building connections between sanctuary seeking mothers in the childbirth journey and the garden, several of our volunteers have been doing the 'Intoduction to Working in Horticulture' course with Pencoed College and Project Coordinator Poppy has been mentoring a number of community growing projects in South Wales take climate action via the Egin Programme.  Poppy also represented Global Gardens at the Wales Veg Summit hosted at S4C Yr Egin, Carmarthen in November where she spoke about GG activities including the #GGGrowAlong and the GG 2022 Festival of Pulses 2023 Festival of Tomatoes and her role as a Welsh Veg Advocate.

We are excited about the offshoots of our community garden and look forwards to the learning that will unfold in 2024.

Looking forwards into 2024

In 2024, our hope is to continue and expand our programme of activities. This includes: volunteer garden sessions, social prescribing sessions, forest school sessions, the Making and Mending club, a 10-part 'Grow Your Own' workshop series, 'Growing Together' workshops and a workshop series with theatre company We Are Fio.


With huge thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund in Wales, Grow Wild, the Nineveh Charitable Trust, The Oakdale Trust, Social Farms and Gardens, the Ashley Fund, SEWBREC and Food Cardiff for supporting our project. And much gratitude to all our wonderful session leaders, volunteers and allies for making it all happen!

Wishing you a restful and restorative winter break and best wishes for 2024.


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