St Mary's is a church at the Headland, a coastal community situated near Hartlepool. In a small courtyard space behind the presbytery, local residents are growing vegetables and fruit which will be used to feed the people nearby.
Working alongside the WEA, the initial development of the garden formed the practical element of a 6 week course, 'Living the Good Life: Grow your own fruit and vegetables', which was delivered by Catherine of Barefoot Solutions and took place during the summer of 2018. Learners planted seeds, planned the site and started work clearing the undergrowth. The site is challenging - it's terraced into several levels and it's not been accessed for many years - but it has some wonderful features that include old brick and stone walls, an underground cellar perfect for cold storing produce, a fantastic amount of light and shelter from the North Sea winds, and easy access to rainwater harvesting.
After clearing the garden of brambles and weeds, Jane, Sue and Marjorie constructed a raised bed, learning about and applying no-dig principles and aspects of permaculture to keep their little garden as sustainable and resilient as possible. Using no-dig meant that in the space of just 5 weeks, the first crops - runner beans, leeks and beetroot, were in the ground.
The St Mary's ladies also learnt how to propagate new plants, how to look after their crops, protecting them from pests and diseases, and how to preserve their harvests for use throughout the year. During the course, they were able to pool their resources and contacts and received donations from the church parishioners, friends and colleagues who pledged a shed, compost, paving stones and cobbles.
On 12th September, after a phenomenal effort, the community garden opened its doors to the public. Over 70 people attended, sharing hot drinks - even cakes made from the brambles harvested in the garden - and getting to know the people in their neighbourhood. The ladies decorated the building with the knitted and crocheted displays of the Heugh Yarners, ran a bring-and-buy stall and gave out donations from the Community Fridge project to people who would benefit from a little extra food.
The garden will continue to grow and will form an integral part of a new community space at the Headland, which will offer shared facilities to benefit all local residents. Always on the lookout for help, offers and volunteers are welcome. More information about the project can be found on the St Mary's Facebook page or by emailing Jane.