Health and wellbeing

Funding level: £10,001 to £25,000


Community Garden St Albans project is an exciting development aiming to help local communities improve their health and wellbeing, promote community cohesion and inclusivity. Community Garden St Albans is led by CDA Herts, based on land in St Albans kindly provided by Oaklands College.

We aim to:
- Improve local people’s health, wellbeing and quality of life by enabling them to develop food growing skills
- Help people with economic and social disadvantages such as the young, unemployed, elderly and disabled and people from ethnic communities and cultural minorities
- Demonstrate to people a better understanding of the environment/wildlife
- Support people who have little opportunity to get close to nature and the environment.

What we have achieved so far – with the help of a wide range of local community groups and corporate volunteers we have already transformed part of the previously empty two acre site into a thriving community garden, including:
- Sensory area and area for use by people with disabilities
- Fruit trees (40) orchard
- Bee hives
- Flower and vegetable show garden
- Herb garden
- Shelter with water harvesting system
- Compost Toilet

Already the Community Garden has regular participation by local groups with a variety of needs and interests, including: disabled adults, toddler group, Asian Women's Association, mental health group, gypsy and traveler group, Syrian refugees, an addiction charity, and a local rehabilitation charity working with prolific offenders. These groups work independently but also come together for collaborative projects. We already have the support of local bee-keepers, and are reaching out to local gardening clubs to attract skilled people to assist our targeted user groups. Our partner Groundwork Hertfordshire has carried out several of the site infrastructure improvements through its' training programmes for local unemployed people.

What we want to do now, and how we would use an Aviva grant: working in partnership with Groundwork we will employ a Community Gardener to work intensively at the site during the March-August 2018 growing season, to engage new and existing user groups/individuals and take activity to a new level by creating new growing areas and exciting communal facilities such as an outdoor oven. The Community Gardener will be on site two days per week, enabling user groups to develop all of the skills needed to sustain their gardening activities in future growing seasons. New interest from single parents and kids, single people, health referrals and volunteers.

At least 40 people will be directly and regularly engaged with the Community Gardener. The Community Gardener will be well placed to secure additional support for individuals as required, for example through links to local employment support and financial inclusion programmes, plus referrals to local specialist support organisations.

Outcomes: therapeutic, mental well-being and physical exercise benefits of gardening have long been recognised. A major 2016 report – “Gardens and Health” from the King’s Fund: collates research evidence from recent decades including gardening’s role in tackling social isolation, maintaining independence, and supporting vocational development. The report concluded that “the sheer weight of evidence – qualitative and quantitative – on how gardening and access to gardens affect our health and wellbeing is overwhelming.”

We will ask regular participants to evaluate how the project has helped to achieve a range of health, inclusion and personal development outcomes including:
- Physical fitness, ability to exercise
- Mental well-being
- Access to healthy food
- Involvement in community, reduced loneliness
- Involvement in decision making in the community
- Understanding of people from different backgrounds
- Practical skills, teamwork, problem-solving
- Confidence, aspirations
- Where applicable: behaviour, employment prospects.

Community Development Action Herts

So proud of diverse communities Asian Women's Association, Gypsy And Travelers Empowerment, Food Smiles, Learning/Physical Disability, Heartbeats, Mind in Mid-Herts, Ex-offenders, Toddlers, who are helping us to create an amazing space for everyone to enjoy, learn, forming happy friendships :)

Location: Hixberry Lane, St Albans, United Kingdom