Last Wednesday Sheila and I attended the East Midlands in Bloom awards at the John Fretwell Sports Centre in Mansfield Woodhouse. Representatives from towns and villages across the East Midlands, as far afield as Northampton, Buxton and Cleethorpes, were waiting with some nervousness to see whether they’d been awarded bronze, silver, silver-gilt or gold for their efforts over the last year. Mansfield achieved two silver-gilts!
The ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ category, which St Mark’s has entered for the last 4 years, is the non-competitive arm of Britain In Bloom, designed to encourage the greening up of neglected spaces and in so doing inspire regeneration of communities. We were delighted to be presented with a Level 5 certificate and 89 out of 100 marks. This is the third year running that St Mark’s Community Garden has gained the top level, classed as outstanding!
Looking back over the year and over the assessors’ comments, we realise that we have grown, not only flowers, fruit and vegetables but also in our community.
The judges were pleased to see increased participation from church groups and individuals. Members of the Boys’ Brigade are responsible for an area and the Under Fives are looking after a raised bed, learning how vegetables get from plot to plate. New volunteers have joined us and we have learned from one another.
Assessors were also impressed by our environmental responsibility. Materials that have been donated or salvaged have been recycled; for example a builder’s sand bag makes a good raised bed and pieces of the old organ are providing a home for bugs. Comfrey is grown and brewed as a rather smelly but very effective plant feed! Bark chippings from neighbouring tree-felling is being used to supress weeds on pathways and horse manure delivered in aid of St Edmunds Church funds is being used to mulch borders ready for next year. Our compost heaps are producing rich compost to improve the texture of the soil. Also this year we’ve gone vertical with the construction of a willow arch using the coppiced willow from the garden!
Fruit trees, purchased last autumn with funds from the diocesan Edible Churchyards scheme, have already been productive and will be trained as espaliers, while the wildflower meadow has allowed two species of wild orchid to thrive.
The community at St Mark’s is certainly enriched by its gardening project and with effort and endeavour we’ll continue to grow and flourish in 2017.