Eastville has a lot of green spaces: Eastville Park; 70 acres of green spaces, the river Frome, a lake and a mixed deciduous woodland and lots of wildlife; Royate Hill Nature Reserve on top and around the old railway viaducts; Rosemary Green (the old Workhouse burial ground), and also the Bridge Farm Community, which includes 3.58 acres of grassland and shrub.
Residents and businesses have told us that they would like to get more greenery back in the high street, through hanging baskets and planters, which have all but disappeared since cuts were made in the council.
The East Park residents, just above Fishponds Road behind May Park Primary School, still maintain 2 flower boxes which were introduced and funded by the Neighbourhood Partnership in the past. A few dedicated residents take a lot of care to maintain and water these all year long. They are looking for funding at the moment to reinstate more hanging flower baskets in the neighbourhood. Some neighbours in Cottrell Road wanted to start a community garden , but could not find a suitable location approved by the Council.
So how do we even begin to think of how this could work for Eastville?
Plants? Volunteers? Funding? Spaces? People seem to be more keen to do something in their own neighbourhoods - right where they live, rather than in the High Street, which ever way you go about it, you need money. So how can these support each other? If the (Wo)manpower AKA volunteers can be motivated to do stuff also in the High street. An issue with this is immediately that Eastville geographically consist of many communities in the neighbourhoods, which are unconnected and far between each other, and the "High Street" is not currently seen as a"High street" or middle point.
In the Summer 2019 we invited Jackie from the Downend and Bromley Heath in Bloom group, to tell us how they have managed to transform their High Street with flowers! She generously provided us with the insurance policies needed and the organisational structure, should Eastville like to form a group ourselves. Thank you Jackie!
They started 4 years ago and initially had South Gloucestershire Council kick start project funding of £2000. They had a misfortune early on, when their boxes and plants were vandalised. This caused such an outrage, which led to someone setting up a funding page for them, which helped to raise their profile and get more funds! I think most importantly as what happens so often when misfortune strikes, it actually brings people together to stand up for something. In this case it also brought them committed fans. People love the flowers in their high street.
So, how do they do it?
15 regular volunteers
Blaise Plant Nursery manages the watering and storage of the planters out of season.
They have free access to a workshop with a dedicated woodworking crew - people with time and skills who build the planters for free!
How do they get funds:
Sponsorship from local shops
Fundraising on the High Street
Selling bespoke wooden objects at markets and fairs
A fundraising page for residents
So. What could a gardening group in Eastville look like? Do we have the social capital and motivation to start something like this? A good start is I think Eastville Park, Royate Hill, Bridge Farm, the cultural organisations - where there are already invested social capital. But as with all community organisations, this is limited. What would their capacity be to get involved beyond their own boundaries? Funding... We have the businesses in Eastgate Shopping Centre, bringing money and jobs into the area, but also polluted air. We need cash, donations and most importantly willing hands - how can they feed back into the community? To be continued in another post about social capital in Eastville...
Ps if you are interested in being involved in a gardening group - do get in touch!