A monthly column from Judith Randell-Sly of the Old Town Residents Association.
We are at the time of year when our gardens are being prepared for the judging of the In Your Neighbourhood section of the RHS Britain in Bloom.
The criteria have changed considerably for this and there is now much more emphasis on the impact of the gardens and also on sustainability.
We have always tried to be sustainable, using peat-free compost and trying to match the plants to the situation, so they do not need to be watered on a regular basis. We also try to grow plants from seeds and cuttings and others we buy from TWIGS and locally from Rose Earle. We now have a compost bin, made from pallets, which we are using to compost much of our green waste.
However, for the first time, I was asked to write a statement for the judges, describing the impact that we consider our projects to have in Old Town, which made me reflect on how the project had developed.
Nine years ago most of the garden plots were unloved, rubbish filled, weedy areas that did nothing to enhance the area and then an OTRA member suggested that we organise a community day to tidy up our local environment.
This was May 2013 and was well attended, showing us that people do care about their local area, so it became a twice yearly event, Spring and Autumn, with litter picking, weeding and bulb planting, with a few annuals and perennials for added colour.
It soon became obvious that there was scope to vastly improve the six small areas we had identified for weeding and planting, but that they would need more work over the seasons and so the gardening group was born.
It was a small group, which initially met once a month, but of course gardening is addictive and it became once a fortnight and then, during lockdown every week. The group continues to meet weekly, whatever the weather, throughout the year.
The impact on the wider community has been the addition of green spaces that give pleasure to those passing by, but has also reduced littering and has created interest in what we do and what we grow, especially as the vegetables grown in Station Approach are free for anyone to take and use. However, our gardens have a wider impact in that they attract bees, butterflies and other insects in an essentially urban and often quite polluted environment. The work has also benefitted those who look after the plots, as it is a social activity, bringing us closer to nature, and giving us exercise, all essential for mental and physical well-being, especially for those who don’t have a garden of their own.
They are little beacons of hope in our uncertain world.
In order to support our gardens and also TWIGS and Swindon City of Sanctuary, we are holding The Old Town Open Gardens on Sunday 10 July from 12pm–5pm. Tickets available from Old Town Hardware, Wood Street, or Earle’s Newsagents, Newport Street. There will be 12 gardens to visit and opportunities to buy plants, ceramics and afternoon teas.