St Albans community garden opens

Grow Community Volunteers with the Mayor, centre.

Grow Community Volunteers with the Mayor, centre. - Credit: Grow community

A new community garden has been opened in Sopwell with the aim of encouraging local, sustainable food growing and nurture an appreciation and respect for our wildlife.

The project was started by local resident Kate Swindells, and is the result of 18 months planning by the voluntary group Grow Community - Sopwell.

Kate said: “We hope the garden will be a focus for the community. Eventually it will have many edibles and wildlife-friendly plants grown without pesticides or artificial fertilisers. The idea is that local people can volunteer to help grow the plants. Everyone can then pick them and use the food when it is ready.”

The garden site is next to the Berners Drive play area, which was favoured as it is a relatively safe place away from main roads, is geographically central in the ward and is an area that many residents pass by.

A consultation with residents in 2020 showed the majority responding positively favouring the physical and mental health benefits of the garden, alongside environmental and community aspects.

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper, Mayor Cllr Janet Smith and county councillor Sandy Walkington, were all present at the opening and planted seedlings.

Local families spent the weekend planting vegetables including potatoes, green beans and courgettes in the new solid oak raised beds.

Daisy Cooper said: “Huge congratulations and well done to everyone involved setting up Grow Community - Sopwell.
"It is fantastic to see people of all ages and backgrounds getting involved planting vegetables, fruit and flowers. It will be a great asset for the community, and I can't wait to see how it develops.”

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The project was developed in consultation with St Albans district council's community engagement team, and the volunteers were supported with a series of online advisory sessions from Alison Findlay, a community outreach advisor from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Future plans for the garden include adding fruit bushes, the building of a bug hotel, a seating area, compost bins, a water butt and a long grass area for wildlife.

Jo Cooney, a member of the Grow Community - Sopwell team said: “The launch weekend is the result of many months of planning. Volunteers worked hard to construct the raised beds filling them with sand and compost just in time for
the opening, and children planted sunflower seedlings in an area designated to become a sunflower den for youngsters.

"We want the community to feel ownership of this area, and to make it their own.”

Sopwell residents are invited to get involved with the garden and help with litter picking and general gardening activities such as watering, weeding, plant care, digging, pruning and harvesting. Guidance is available to those wanting to learn, and all working parties and community events follow Covid-safe guidelines.

Sopwell community garden

Daisy Cooper MP with Michelle Mackenzie - volunteer with Grow Community Sopwell - Credit: Grow community

St Albans Mayor Cllr Janet Smith said: “It is a fantastic idea and an asset to the people of Sopwell. It was a pleasure to have been invited to attend.”

The garden has been paid for through grants from St Albans district council, Herts county council, Morgan Sindall, the Royal Horticultural Society, and community donations.

Kate Swindell added: “I especially want to thank the council’s community engagement team and current and former Sopwell ward and county councillors for their support in helping to get this project off the ground.”

Sopwell community garden

Mayor Cllr Janet Smith planting seedlings. - Credit: Grow community

Cllr Sandy Walkington said: “I am delighted I was able to get come county council funding for this project and it’s great to see it coming to fruition.”

Grow Community - Sopwell has also restored the Abbots Avenue planters and runs a street stall where local residents can help themselves to seeds and seedlings for growing at home.

For more information search Grow Community Sopwell on Facebook Groups or see