A Cardiff community garden that helps people with combat stress, depression, and young offenders – as well as working with local schools and community volunteers – is preparing for the next stage in its development with new garden benches made by people with learning needs.
St Peters Community Garden in Fairwater was started four years ago on derelict church land in St Fagans Road.
After clearing away the overgrown space – along with old mattresses, iron poles, and plastic traffic cones – volunteers spent the last four years laying 148 tonnes of stone dust pathways, planting 148 varieties of wild flowers, and establishing a new pond, lawns and orchard.
But with project manager Ian Thompson believing there is a link between community gardens and people’s behaviour, the St Peters project has tried to work with people from a variety of backgrounds.
This has included sufferers of combat stress, the homeless, young offenders, people with learning difficulties, former prisoners, and people with depression.
Mr Thompson said: “A lot of these people are looking for something but they don’t know what. They’ve lost their self-esteem, self-confidence, and become socially excluded. What we do with the garden is give that back to them.”
“People with combat stress for example, who have found their way to us, have had issues after being in a world of violence and when they come out the other side, they are not quite as society might like them to be. It can lead to all sorts of suffering. But the peace you get from a community garden gives you a sense of tranquillity, and it’s a stress free environment in which you can start to deal with those issues.”
The project also works with conservation and community volunteers, and Fairwater Primary School, whose grounds border the garden.
Pupils from the school have been involved with the community garden at every stage of its development and today a group of children visited Vision 21- a charity offering vocational training for people with learning needs – to see the latest addition to the garden being made: four solid oak benches.
It is hoped the benches, funded by a £3,000 grant from the Mission Fund, will be in the garden by next month, adding another place for quiet reflection in the heart of the city.
Head teacher of Fairwater Primary School Carolyn Mason, who joined the children on their visit to Vision 21 this morning, said the community garden also had an important educational role.
She said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for the children to work alongside members of the community. To see something right from the start, like a garden being cleared, designed, and planted, then to come here this morning and see the wood turned from a tree into a bench, lets the children appreciate how things in nature work together, and that there’s a process that involves hard work.”
Anyone who would like to volunteer with the St Peters Community Garden can contact Ian Thompson on 07793074004.