Throughout 2022, Groundwork Greater Manchester have been hosting a selection of outdoor activities in Rochdale as part of the Bounce Back & Grow project, which aims to connect more local people with nature.

Jean, who lives next to Stoneyfield Park in Deeplish, has been involved in the Pop-up & Grow sessions since the start after seeing the Groundwork team in the area. After the death of her husband a few years before and following the Covid-19 lockdowns, Jean had found it hard to engage with her local community and felt isolated at times, so an opportunity to connect with others through nature was perfect.

“I’ve been in a bit of a mess, I’d gotten really down. I started coming here and mixing in with people and it’s just really brought me out of my shell”

Throughout the sessions, Jean began rallying the community together so more people became involved. Many children in Rochdale have limited access to green space, so it was beneficial for them to get involved with the planting sessions and take ownership of the space too.

“I’ve passed the word on when I’ve seen people, I’ve gone to people’s houses and told them to come and have a go. I’ve always looked forward to helping the littler children to do the gardening, they really seem to enjoy it”

Despite enjoying the sessions, Jean also spoke about the barriers the community have faced whilst working to improve their greenspace.

“The first time we planted some flowers, by the next morning all the flowers had been taken out of the pots. We were really upset because there’s no need to come and take the flowers, they’re given to everyone in the sessions so all you have to do is come along.”

Luckily, after a few more planting sessions the thefts stopped. The community came together to manage the upkeep of the plants with Jean and three neighbours regularly watering the planters. The plants have thrived over the Summer and Jean is keen to continue her work long after the Bounce Back & Grow sessions finish.

“I get on with a lot of the people and I see us all coming together and looking after the plants even when the sessions are over”

Watch our full video about Jean’s story here: