Founded on derelict land, in an area of critical multiple deprivation, (1% Virgintile SIMD 2016), Belville Biodiversity Garden has created a 500 square metre oasis of calm and wildlife, in an area where residents have little access to quality garden space. The design was inspired, influenced and built by the community on the most minimal budget, by using reclaimed and recycled materials from the local area and home grown or donated plants. The lack of budget was no bar to creativity, with huge hexagonal bug hotel sculptures using recycled wood, a stumpery, nectar bar and log piles sitting amongst swathes of bold, native wild flower planting. The artist Wayne Darnell incorporated many creative interventions within the design, such as oak leaves carved on a tree trunk seat. Volunteers to build a stunning viewpoint cairn using reclaimed stones from the site. The garden has 180 degree views across the Clyde, to Bute and the Argyll coastline. The garden design won a Greening Grey Britain Award from the RHS in 2017. The housing association, River Clyde Homes contributed initial groundwork and laid a path, but the teamwork between community groups such as TCV Green Gym group, Belville Garden Club, Greenock Scouts and volunteer staff from a local Tesco did all the rest, resulting in a garden that it attractive, creative and educational. The garden has attracted national charities such as Butterfly Conservation Trust, RHS, Scottish Wildlife Trust and TCV to the area to give advice, free talks and workshops. Many residents now walk their dogs or stroll across the site which was deliberately designed to be open to all. Primary school and nurseries visiting the site can teach lessons about biodiversity and community workers have been surveying the site with children using OPAL science tools, to find out the increase in insect and pollinator species. QR codes are planned to be installed in the garden for each native plant and element of biodiversity, so that visitors can transfer the knowledge to their own gardens. It is hoped that the garden will be taken as a template for other local communities developing other “eyesore” sites within Inverclyde. The garden is the first site within the nascent Inverclyde Pollinator Corridor, set up to provide stepping stones of habitat and forage for pollinators and increase awareness of native Scottish wildflowers and pollinators. This project is now listed as part of the implementation of the Scottish Government Pollinator Strategy.
Supporting StatementThe Belville Community Garden Trust has been stunned by the quality of the design and execution of the project, despite having a budget of only £5,000. For us, it shows what can be achieved by community groups working together as a tight team and some audacious creative thinking by the volunteer designer, Laura Reilly.
The community groups rallied together even more after the groundwork machinery was vandalised in consecutive nights at the start of the project and work had to be completed by hand. The design has been created to be difficult to damage or easy to replace and it is pleasing that the garden seems to have been fully embraced by all sections of the community and there have been no further such incidents.
The success of the site has led to regeneration of the area with River Clyde Homes donating a further adjacent plot of land for community food growing in 26 raised beds. Members of the community using the garden have been surveyed by community workers and have been pleased that the garden marks the history of the site (the site of six high flats) with six mounds and talked about the garden "restoring their view", a stunning view once blighted by the fly-tipping and dereliction on the site. The garden is well used already by the local community, dog walkers and has a functional educational role.
Placements with the Belville Community Garden Trust, young people with additional support needs, autism, or who have fallen out of mainstream education, are being taught valuable skills in construction and horticulture by working there. Belville Community Garden Club meet weekly and have planted and maintained the nectar bar and stumpery. It is an acknowledged gap nationally that there is a lack of good quality, well used garden space, in effect a skills gap, and this garden is a part of addressing an inter-generational need to pass on skills, knowledge and tips about using gardens properly.
We are planning launch party for the garden in the summer and are expecting over one hundred attendees.