Secret garden brings Fallowfield into bloom
Published by Becki Ord for City South Manchester in Housing and also in Communities
Mark Roberts sets to work in the Secret Garden
Green-fingered Mark Roberts is creating a tranquil oasis for his fellow residents and members of the community to enjoy by developing a ‘SecretGarden’ in partnership with City South Manchester Housing Trust.
The project received a welcome boost on Monday (6th FEB) through the assistance of 30 students from the Manchester Leadership Programme’ – Manchester University’s student volunteering initiative, City South housing staff – and other members of the Secret Garden Residents’ Group.
The group set about shifting seven tonnes of soil to kick start the project which will be used to fill in raised flower beds. They also took part in clearing away the garden area and planting the first crop of vegetables, shrubs and saplings on the patch of land betweenMarbury AvenueandWallasey Avenuein Fallowfield, which is owned by City South.
With the support of Manchester-based charity Action for Sustainable Living, City South tenant Mark Roberts, 31, came up with the idea of planning a ‘SecretGarden’ after he managed to impress his landlord with his garden allotment. The management team later sent him a letter offering him the opportunity to transform the piece of land for the benefit of the community.
Now, it is Mark’s vision to create a plot for summer vegetables, a pond, a large potato bed, seating area and possibly even a bee-keeping zone to entertain visitors. The first phase of the ambitious plans will involve creating a barbecue area, replacing willow trees with fruit trees and using the old willow trunks and branches to make a number of garden sheds.
Mark hopes to see the second phase of the plans include a forestry project with local schools that would include educational facilities for children and a third phase catering for people with disabilities.
“It’s been very exciting having my own project to plan and develop and I’ve learnt so much in terms of enhancing my project management skills and taking charge of my own landscape design project,” said Mark, who lives nearby in Holford Avenue.
“I think I get my green fingers from my mum who has always been a keen gardener.
“I’m currently a full time carer for my mum but I have worked on building sites in the past so I’ve always been quite practical. My passion for gardening has really grown in the past two years and I’m really proud to be in a position to manage a project of this size myself.
“When City South Housing Trust showed me where the land was I came up with the name of ‘Secret Garden’ as it’s in a very secluded location and well hidden, so it just seemed to fit. My vision now is that it will be used as widely as possible for educational purposes and we may even set up a social enterprise selling cheap vegetables to local people.”
Funding for the ‘SecretGarden’ has so far been secured from community grants programme Groundwork Eco Streets and The Woodland Trust. Action for Sustainable Living, which specialises in community engagement and funding applications and is based in the Northern Quarter, has also supported Mark by helping him apply for grants.
To help him hone his horticultural skills, City South paid for Mark to attend a management training course at the Permaculture Association and he has since enlisted himself on a design course. City South has also provided funding to help get the project off the ground and staff have been on hand to offer advice and support for the project.
In addition, Mark’s project is being supported by 15 members of the Secret Garden Residents’ Group which consists of City South tenants and local residents, who are all eager to offer their ideas.
Mark Beach, Neighbourhood Manager at City South Manchester Housing Trust, said: “We are truly excited about the fantastic opportunities presented by the development of theSecretGarden. Mark and his group are demonstrating what is possible when a community works together, all they need is a little bit of passion, energy, the right support and encouragement.
“It is already evident that the local community will reap huge benefits from the project and we are keen for as many local residents as possible to get signed up and involved.”