COVID -19 has had an impact on every aspect of our work at Triangle Garden, including the Garden Club. Here Garden Committee chair Fiona Dolman reflects on the year more broadly and also talks about the impact of COVID on our activities during 2020:
Garden Club normally meets every Friday morning 10am-12.15 for some gentle social gardening. It is open to anyone and its purpose is to maintain and develop the Triangle Garden and Forest Garden. Members benefit from learning new gardening skills, meeting new friends and being active in the fresh air, while making a positive contribution to the community. There are also regular trips and outings to gardens and shows. A very important part of the Garden Club experience is the cuppa, cake and chat at the Pavilion at the end of each session!
Garden Club has met most Fridays throughout the year, excluding holidays and for bad weather. During lockdown, members made individual visits to tend the allotment as part of their daily exercise. Volunteer numbers have remained fairly constant through the year, with 14 volunteers and an average of 8 people attending each week. After a difficult end to last year with a spate of drug-related antisocial behaviour at the Garden, we sought the help of the community police and thankfully the problems seem to have more or less abated, although whether this is a temporary situation or a longer term one remains to be seen.
This year we’ve spent time focusing on new projects and have started to build a herbarium, which has involved pressing plants in the garden at different stages of the year to build a full record. We’ve also taken on a new allotment plot (on loan from a supporter) and a number of volunteers have focused on developing it. Our allotments have produced a lot of vegetables and provided a great deal of respite for the volunteers through the year.
Once lockdown ended, we began to welcome volunteer groups back, initially running 2 sessions with a maximum of 5 volunteers on Thursday and Friday afternoons to enable us to provide a COVID secure environment. When restrictions eased further, the groups were keen to get back to the normal Friday morning sessions, with an average of 7/8 people attending each week, generally split into two groups across our sites. We are now looking forward to finally building our cold frames with a grant secured pre-lockdown from charity Bite Sized Pieces. We have also been working with Groundwork Hertfordshire, providing a 6 week programme for their ‘Get Outdoors Get Active’ sessions, aimed to provide work experience for Syrian refugees and local unemployed people.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 we left the Forest Garden to evolve naturally for much of the summer, with little intervention from our group. It seems to have worked and the garden has fared well, with a good harvest of almonds, quince, mulberries, medlars, primarily due to a long summer with a fair amount of sunshine and rain. A number of volunteers have been working to remove the weed-block membrane that was laid when the forest garden was first planted, as it is now hampering herbaceous growth.
Our group outings this year included a pre Christmas trip to London, visiting the Crossrail Garden at Canary Wharf, St Dunstan’s church garden and finally the Sky Garden to see London lit up at night. We also visited the Cambridge Botanical Winter Garden in February.
Since March 2018 Garden Club members have been joined once a month by volunteers from Crane Building Services & Utilities. This has continued throughout 2019 and 2020 (excluding lockdown). Groups of four Crane employees have helped carry out a range of tasks including repairing the willow maze and building a bug hotel in the garden. It has been wonderful to have this help and we are very grateful to the Crane team for their ongoing commitment and support. I’m really pleased to report that Crane volunteer days have restarted and the first day was spent building an impressive stag beetle habitat.
I would like to thank Steve Granger, who skilfully leads Garden Club every week, imparting his knowledge and humour, Rachel who supported us through the summer, the volunteers who kept the allotments going during lockdown and of course the volunteers who are able once more to show up, rain, shine or storm, on a Friday and who make the Garden Club the wonderful place that it is.
Fiona Dolman, Garden Committee Chair