Deserted, overgrown with weeds, filled with junk, grey and dismal. Sound familiar? If you regularly see a neglected area like this in your neighbourhood, you and other locals could have the opportunity to transform it into something better.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is calling on communities to give a green makeover to an unloved space in 2020.
Now in its fifth year, the RHS Greening Great Britain funding programme is focussing on growing connections through gardening. Applicants are being asked to show how their project can help bring people together.
‘Many people suffer from loneliness and isolation and connecting with others, particularly when a common goal can be found, can be the best antidote,’ explain the RHS.
They claim more than 9 million British people report that they feel lonely, either often or always.
The scheme, supported by M&G Investments, is offering grants of up to £500 for 50 gardening projects across the country as well as hands-on support from an RHS Community Advisor.
RHS Community Outreach Manager, Liz Stewart says: ‘The programme has helped 178 community projects to date and complements our wider campaign to get people growing for the benefit of people and the planet. This year, we’re keen to support groups who want to connect people through gardening and enjoy all the health and wellbeing benefits that brings.
‘The scheme offers plenty of scope to bring people together in different and inventive ways. This might be [by] encouraging intergenerational gardening, creating a new community hub where people can meet, or simply getting neighbours talking to each other by helping out.’
Groups are invited to apply to create or revamp a place that will benefit others in the community through a shared gardening challenge. However, groups need to be signed-up to an RHS-affiliated scheme such as Britain in Bloom, It’s Your Neighbourhood or the RHS Campaign for School Gardening to be eligible.
If successful, applicants can expect the cover of costs including that of plants, seeds, tools, gardening accessories, peat-free compost and soil enhancers. Further, hands-on support could involve horticultural advice and plant selection, skills training and workshops in addition to help with initial planning and maintaining your project into the future.
‘Every patch of green space counts,’ says Liz, ‘particularly in urban areas where trees and plants can help improve air quality, reduce flood risk and manage temperatures in hot summers. With many once-common wildlife species now under threat – hedgehog numbers have fallen by a third in just ten years for example – gardens and green spaces also have an important role in providing vital food, shelter and places to nest.’
She explains a top reason many take part in the programme is because of the opportunity to create habitats for wildlife by growing wildflowers and plants for pollinators, installing bird boxes and adding wildlife-friendly ponds.
2019 funded projects include:
- The expansion of a community garden in Yorkshire, as part of a social prescribing scheme, where people are referred from local GP surgeries to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of growing with others.
- A church group revamped their community garden to supply fresh produce to a food bank scheme in Gateshead.
- The transformation of a wasteland in Bristol into a vibrant gardening hub, helping local people to gain skills and confidence.
- A calming garden was created in Essex for people with dementia and their carers to grow together and relax.
The RHS add: ‘Previous Greening Great Britain growers tell us how they treasure the friendships forged by bringing a shared project to life, with plants and nature as their canvas.’
The deadline for applications is midnight on Friday 14th February. Visit the RHS website for full details of eligibility criteria and to apply.
If you’re planning to green up an unloved space in your community, you can show your support for Greening Great Britain by posting a photo or video and tagging the RHS or by using the #GreeningGreatBritain hashtag on social media.