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UK: Community Gardening In Window Boxes

  • Subject: [cg] UK: Community Gardening In Window Boxes
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2006 08:56:54 -0400

Happy day for flower power generation
Can a hanging basket of flowers really transform a neighbourhood? One group of Sheffield residents say a few flowers have helped them feel happier. Lucy Ashton finds out how more

WHAT'S the key to creating community spirit?
On one Sheffield estate it seems it's a few pansies and a spattering of geraniums..
Residents in Page Hall have made their neighbourhood a better place to live simply by using hanging baskets and window boxes.
The flowers were originally intended to make Page Hall look prettier but residents have discovered the boxes and baskets have had a dramatic effect on the area.
As well as brightening up the streets, the flowers have brought the community together and made everyone a better neighbour.
Ivor Wallace and Nikki Hibberd from Page Hall Community Association decided to hand out the free plants to cheer up the local community.
Community spirit took a dip last year when Sheffield Council suggested demolishing a number of homes. A lot of residents campaigned strongly against the proposals and had a stressful time while their homes were under threat of demolition.
After seeing residents' reaction, the council scrapped demolition plans but the proposals had shaken the community.
Nikki and Ivor decided it wasn't just the neighbourhood which needed cheering up, but also its residents.
"We had funding from the area panel and Green City Action to provide a window boxes and hanging baskets so we advertised a planting day in May," said Nikki.
"People could either come down and plant their own basket or box or just come and collect one which we had put together."
The event was a huge success. A hundred people went to the first day and 100 more put their names down for the next planting day.
"Green City Action provided the trays and we added the flowers and plants. We even took baskets around to people and fitted them to their houses if they couldn't do it themselves."
Ivor and Nikki were delighted to see a few colourful plants could make such a difference to the community.
"It boosted the area," said Ivor. "It got people talking and turned the neighbourhood into a community as people had a talking point.
"A lot of people went out in the evening to water the plants and got talking to their neighbours who were also watering their plants. They might never have spoken before but started talking over the plants.
"We also provided hanging baskets for a lot of shops and they had leaflets on the counters to tell people about the community association."
At the second planting event in June even more people came along, including local teenagers.
"It's been fantastic," said Nikki. "People are taking more pride in their neighbourhood and are talking to each other. We have some new trees on the streets so we planted some of the spare flowers around the tree pockets and people have taken responsibility for going outside and watering them and picking up rubbish."
Ivor added: "I went on holiday during the hottest day of the year and my neighbour offered to water my plants so it's created so much community spirit.
"All the boxes were made locally so it's benefited the local community too."
Along with the free boxes and baskets, residents were also given lessons in garden maintenance and 
children from Owler Brook School helped to plant new trees.
The community association was so encouraged it organised a gardening competition and Page Hall has been entered into Sheffield in Bloom and Yorkshire in Bloom.
"We received an award from the Lord Mayor for doing a scheme which was extra special," said Nikki. "She said we had a really good level of community spirit. The community association has been running for less than six months so to have been so successful so early on is a fantastic achievement.
"Everyone was chuffed to bits with the award and I was so proud. Everyone has the feeling that we can do anything now."
Council chiefs say it's proof little things make a massive difference.
Coun Chris Weldon, cabinet member for safer neighbourhoods, said: "I hope local people will support these projects and get involved with making Page Hall a nicer environment to live in.
"Attractive gardens can make a huge difference to the appearance of the area and encourage a sense of pride in the neighbourhood."

The baskets and window boxes were funded by Sheffield Council's east regeneration team and the local area panel.

The planting sessions were also helped by Green City Action, a non-profit making community group that was set up in 1993.

It identified Pitsmoor and Firth Park as areas in need of environmental and community help and formed Green City Action to encourage recycling, organic gardening and other initiatives.

Green City Action runs a tool store, a seed exchange and a toy resource centre.

For more details email enquiries@greencityaction.co.uk or write to Green City Action, Abbeyfield Park House, Abbeyfield Park Road, Sheffield S4 7AG.

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21 August 2006
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