In 2011 Braehead Community Council (BCC) was given a grant from the Scottish Government as part of the initial stages of what would become the “Community Empowerment Bill”. The grant was to help communities explore the opportunities and challenges of running facilities. At the time, BCC had been talking with Stirling Council about creating allotments on an area of land on the council’s housing revenue account. BCC used some of the money to test the community appetite for allotments and through a series of engagement exercises realised that while there was broad support for allotments, there was overwhelming support for a community garden offering “micro plots” for fruit and vegetables. A stage one application to the Big Lottery resulted in an additional grant allowing the community to further develop their concept and in 2014 BCC was awarded £249,000 to build their community garden. In April 2015, the 11,000 square metre Braehead Community Garden opened with 100 raised beds, two 66ft x 22ft Polytunnels, a clubhouse, tool shed and workshop. Local residents were offered a “garden access pass” for £12 which gave them a key to the garden and access to all of the social events and classes and the ability to lease a raised bed for £52 per year (this cost includes access to all tools, seeds, etc). Within three months BCG had exceeded its first year targets with 100 members and 65 leased raised beds. Partnerships with other community groups were established, with both the local Brownies and Beavers having their own raised beds. The local primary school’s “Eco-committee” of pupils were also given access to the garden, organising a sunflower competition in 2015. For 2016, the project will be introducing a social enterprise aspect to the garden with a number of projects designed to enhance opportunities within the community and raise funds for the continuation of the project. Initial projects include a nursery growing plug plants and creating hanging baskets; a beehive for producing honey; and chickens for producing eggs. Local residents will be offered training and support in these projects. In late 2016 the project will also offer classes in cooking, creating soups, chutneys, jams and more. The Community Council is in the process of setting up a Community Development Trust to run the garden and to be a springboard for future opportunities.
Braehead Community Garden (BCG) has enhanced our community in more ways that we could have imagined when the project was dreamed up four years ago. We have smashed our membership targets for year one, with 100 members and an active committee of 20, enabling us to offer more than just a hub space – we are enhancing it with lots of training and social events. The vision for the project came from the community council and while consultants from a local company were brought in to help run events, community representatives carried out consultation with the wider community. The garden is having a great impact on our community, with users indicating that they are engaging with and thinking about the health implications of what they are eating. It is also helping to enhance relationships as these comments from members show: “I know more of my neighbours by name since joining the community garden than I have since moving here seven years ago”, “since my wife died two years ago I don’t get out of the house much. Now that I’ve got access to the garden, I head down most days and potter around.” With the introduction of new projects such as beekeeping and plant propagation, the garden is enhancing its offering and also developing a number of revenue streams for sustainability. The biggest challenged faced was ensuring community support, partner support and community capacity to delivery sustainability. Through open dialogue with key stakeholders and seeking people with key skills and empowering them to use them, BCG has built an enviable level of robustness and support. This can be attributed to the thorough levels of planning that went into this project before building began. From the very beginning we have been conscious that our project was both a “community” and a “gardening” project. We wanted to ensure the space was conducive to enhancing our community spirit and helping individuals engage with local fresh food. Our designer, Tracy Rich, was both a professional landscape designer and a Community Councillor in a neighbouring area. She understood our twin aims and designed what became both a beautiful and a practical space. In January 2016 our garden was named the “best designed community space” in the United Kingdom by the “Society of Garden Designers” which is both evidence of the beauty and the practicality of the design. The SGD event is regarded as the “Oscars” of the garden design world. The garden is built on part of the Bannockburn battlefield. As part of the planning consent from Stirling Council we had to undertake a professional metal detecting survey of the site. We took the opportunity to work with local metal detectorists and a professional archaeology company to run a “community dig” event. This was attended by over 100 adults and 500 children and was judged a great success. This project has had a huge impact in our community and we believe it has only scratched the surface of its potential.