Lochend Community Growing Project is a grassroots-led community growing project in East Edinburgh. The group of local residents established ‘Lochend Secret Garden’ in 2011-12 as a hub for growing activities in their estate. The garden was completed in 2012, and now has 52 raised beds for individuals and households to grow food, community beds for groups, an outdoor kitchen and a large shed which doubles as a classroom. The Secret Garden is Scotland’s longest forest garden forming a perimeter around the site.
Edible Estates was involved in the conception, funding, design and delivery of the project. Over Spring of 2011, Edible Estates and Carr Gomm delivered a scoping study to test the viability of establishing a community-growing project. The study surveyed sites and households throughout the community. This identified seven potential sites and over 80 households, local schools and organisations who would wish to participate in the project.
During the construction phase, Edible Estates provided design and project management services for Carr Gomm, a national social care organisation, who is responsible for community development. The local participants were supported by Carr Gomm to establish a community-growing association which works to encourage and support households throughout the neighbourhood to create edible landscapes in their backgreens. The project was then handed over to the association after a year or so.
The site is in the middle of a former council estate which is now mixed tenure. Constructed in the 1930’s, the housing is 2 – 3 storey tenements in broken perimeter blocks. Like other estates of the period, it is endowed with generous gardens to the front and rear of the tenements, with further publically-accessible greenspaces within the perimeter blocks.
How has community gardening impacted health inequalities in Lochend?
Community gardening by its very nature is a health-promoting activity, which can be welcoming and accessible to people across the entire spectrum of society. Growing food is an outdoor activity involving gentle physical exertion with the added benefit of spending time outside in nature. Apart from the physical benefits of exercise, community growing encourages healthier eating and learning about where fresh produce comes from, and how to cook it. Importantly, the social aspect of joining a group and being welcomed into a new community has great benefits for mental health and social isolation. In Lochend the participants were asked after one year of being involved with the garden, what were the benefits. Overwhelmingly, the biggest response was that the gardeners valued the company of new friends most highly, and felt that their improved mental health through this support and sense of community had unlocked other health benefits. Having more confidence and feeling safer in their neighbourhood meant they were more able to join in other activities. The most popular activities were always the Grow Your Own Courses, as demand for growing food continues to increase.
Lochend Community Growing Project have since gone on to establish several community orchards around the estate and hold regular community events and workshops.
In the six years that the garden has been running, it has held twice-weekly drop-in volunteering sessions open to all, numerous social events, horticultural classes and arts and craft activities. All events are free or by donation, and the garden aims to reduce as many barriers to participation as possible.
For further information about the garden or any of the events or workshops, please get in touch.