One of the interesting things about being part of the Renew Wales crew is watching the ripple effect of the project. It always seems that a ‘little Renew’… goes a long way.
A great example of this is in my own patch of Maindee in Newport where all of my Renew projects have somehow become inter woven, with one project leading to another. I suspect this is mirrored in towns all over Wales?
Back in 2015 I supported a group called the Woodlanders. They wanted to plant an orchard in a city park that the council had given them a licence to work in. Six years on and the trees are blooming (well in Spring at least! ). The park celebrates Apple Day each year and schoolchildren and adults visit regularly for various buglife and planting events.
Some of the folk involved in the Woodlanders became involved in running the nearby Maindee Community Library and then another Renew-supported project was born, Incredible Edible Maindee. The help from mentor Tom O’Kane was inspirational and soon Maindee’s sparse green patches of muddy grass were producing fruit and vegetables and enhancing an area known mainly for its concrete and tarmac!
Two more projects at Maindee Primary School and Eveswell Community Centre in 2017 were to create raised beds for community growing. The Incredible Edible group morphed into Greening Maindee who decided to pull all the growing patches together and start a ‘Food For Life’ project, joining Maindee Library with Community House Eton Road, Eveswell Community Centre and Maindee Primary School. The ball was really rolling now!
Suddenly all these disparate projects were working together in a big joined up community growing venture, attracting a wide range of volunteers growing food, sharing out the produce and cooking and eating together. They realised they had the power to do things themselves, adapt and partner-up as needed, tapping in to support when and if they required it.
Around this time Newport City Council had been making plans to sell off Eveswell Community Centre with its spacious grounds, for housing. But earlier this year after seeing the land at the centre put to such good use with the planting up of numerous raised beds, an orchard, and a rain garden the council had a change of heart. The land now is hopefully to be kept for outdoor growing and community activity. The aspiration is that it will become an outdoor studies centre with facilities indoors for horticulture talks and discussions.
The ‘Food For Life’ collaboration has also led to a successful heritage lottery bid to encourage people from minority cultures to take part in nature based activities. A bid to the UK Community Renewal Fund means a grotty car park could soon become a green park with a sustainable drainage system, and also a community fridge is opening at the library after Christmas to help divert food from landfill.
Other spin offs have been that the council’s Street Scene team have now pitched in to help. They’ve been very supportive, preparing patches of ground for wildflower planting, giving away bulbs and working on a joint project to re-establish street trees.
There is now a fantastic synergy in Newport of statutory organisations, charities and community groups working together to create a greener city, and much of this has stemmed from the original Renew Wales support. People with a passion for sustainability and biodiversity issues have felt empowered to just ‘get on and do it’ and can’t help but pass on that passion to others, and the ripples just expand and expand.