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By Lead Volunteer Ella Sykes

Saturday marked the end of student sessions at Global Gardens for this academic year, and what a year it’s been.

AUTUMN Our year kicked off with the Fresher’s Fayre, where we hoped to let the student body know what we’re about and to recruit some new budding volunteers. Working on the age-old truth that everybody loves a freebie, we set up a herb cuttings stall where students could create their own ‘herb pot’, and before long we had a queue right down the hall! It was wonderful to meet so many new people, chat about gardening and to connect with other societies who we’d go on to work with throughout the year.

We held our first session in early October, and had a lovely day welcoming new faces to the garden and showing them round the space. It was a gorgeous sunny autumn day with plenty of late flowers still in bloom, not to mention the abundance of apples which were put to delicious use in the Apple Day festival that followed our normal session. As the leaves began to fall over the next few weeks it was great to see a regular volunteer group take root and start to grow.

WINTER The dark and cold of the winter months didn’t dampen spirits at the garden, and we were lucky to have a string of chilly but bright days which were perfect for clearing and prepping for the new year. We learnt all about fungi with the Shiro project, welcomed the Student Action for Refugees society to a session, shared recipes created with harvest from the garden and consumed copious amounts of herbal tea! The colder months planted the seed of an idea to get our own ‘Global Gardens’ fleeces… more on those later! Regular Saturday sessions continued right up until mid-December when we ended 2021 on a festive note with the brilliant natural wreath-making workshop.

SPRING After letting the garden rest in January, we were back and ready for a new project in February. We had a fantastic turnout to our first session back, so much so that we managed to rebuild the broken bike wheel ‘igloo’ in just one morning! A bigger task was needed… so we turned our attention to the extremely overgrown mandola in the centre of the gardens. After a few tough weeks pulling up all the old groundsheets and bramble roots (who needs the gym when you get a full arm workout at the gardens?!), we re-landscaped the plot and decided as a group that we’d love to turn it into a tea garden, as harvesting herbs to take home for a natural cuppa is one of our favourite things to do!

As new life started to spring up all around the garden, it was wonderful to see new friendships blossoming among our volunteers too. Every Saturday afternoon you’ll now find a group of (sometimes slightly muddy!) students enjoying a well-earned coffee at Alex Gooch Bakery after our session, as is their new tradition. Our garden grows much more than just plants!

SUMMER The Easter break often marks the end of the year for student societies, as many members become preoccupied by exams and returning to their family homes. However, the smaller number of students at our sessions didn’t mean there was a slowing down of our activity; in fact, just like the blooming gardens, we had a new lease of life! Summer was officially welcomed into Global Gardens at the Calan Mai event, where we were treated to fabulous food, spellbinding storytelling and mesmerising music from across the globe courtesy of the Oasis One World choir.

We started on the clearing of the orchard space with the intention of creating a new seating area, but found we were fighting a losing battle with new weeds sprouting faster than we could clear them week on week, so have decided to put our plans on hold until the autumn. The orchard itself is becoming increasingly overshadowed by the new GP surgery building, but rather than mourning the loss of green space we are excited about the new opportunities it brings with it. Our plans for a social prescribing patient group, run in collaboration with the GP practice, are taking shape, and in May we welcomed some lovely occupational therapy students to the garden who will be helping us to set up the new group.

Our lead volunteers, Cara and Ella, were thrilled to be awarded the Volunteering Group of the Year prize at this year’s Societies and Volunteering Awards. It was an unexpected but lovely signifier of the work we have put into growing the group over the year, and we owe so much of our success to the wonderful volunteers who have been committed to the gardens throughout 2021/22.

The final student session last Saturday was an opportunity to celebrate the year and to say goodbye to the graduating members of the group. Our Global Gardens fleeces FINALLY arrived, and – although they’re not really needed in the current weather – they look amazing! Thank you to every volunteer that came along to the gardens this year; it has been wonderful to meet so many of you this year and we hope to see lots of you again in September. Have a lovely summer!


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