The 4H ‘Hops, Herbs, Health and Happiness’ Community Garden Project is run by Whittington Park Community Association, in partnership with Octopus Community Network. The project has created a small, vibrant, inter-generational community garden, following consultation with the local community – and one specific request from an elderly gentleman who stated he “would not be gardening unless there were hops”.
Whittington Park Community Association is a community centre in Whittington Park, Islington. The Centre functions as a cafe, a community nursery, an after-school club, and an over 60s lunch club. The 4H garden has become a key activity for many of these clubs, including providing fresh produce for the lunch club.
The Greener City Fund Community Green Spaces grant funded £7,637 for the delivery of the 4H Community Garden. They also had £1,910 match funding from within Whittington Park Community Centre and from Octopus Community Network.
The aims of this project were to bring local residents together, break down barriers (especially inter generational), and reduce isolation within the older community. One way they have done this is by enabling older people and disabled people to engage in planting and growing in the garden; this was made possible by the raised beds and seating in the enclosed, dog-free space.
I think it’s wonderful! We started in April and it’s amazing what you can do with a little patch of land. My girls have really enjoyed it and so have I. It’s fulfilling when you can eat the food you have grown yourself.
The community centre holds regular gardening workshops to grow food for all, as well as a weekly gardening group. These are run by the Octopus team through their ‘We Can Grow’ programme, which teaches people how to develop the garden environment, grow food and maintain the space. They also offer specialist workshops such as: hop growing & beer brewing, herbs & health, and composting & recycling.
Some of the garden’s fresh produce is cooked in the weekly lunch clubs, where older residents can enjoy a cheap and nutritious meal whilst getting out and socialising. Children are also engaged with the planting of wildflowers and bulbs, where they each have a section that they can take ownership of and look after.
When asked what advice they would give to similar projects they recommend that you make sure you have organised the watering of the site – especially over summer – whether this is through trusted volunteers or a staff rota. They also say that it is important to consider community engagement and the design of the site early on. The 4H garden will be maintained by volunteers and members from the local community. They will also hold regular activities with local children through schools and after school clubs.
Alf, Project Volunteer:
I volunteer at another garden somewhere else, but this is just amazing. I have learnt so much about gardening and I really enjoy it. I come here five days a week and I work from 10-5. If it’s raining, I will put a rain coat on and stay out.
The 4H Garden was constructed in the snow and has endured the sweltering summer, yet has continued to thrive and be loved by the community. The members of the lunch club are excited to keep tasting delicious new recipes from the garden.