Doing a lot with a little: Community gardens on a shoestring

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Meet St James City Farm in Gloucester and find out how their community garden grew from humble beginnings in an inspiring, thrifty way.

What do you do when you’ve got some disused land in urban Gloucester, with nothing more than abandoned, overgrown allotments and a pile of manure? Members of the community were starting to get fed up of the land being not much more than an eyesore (not to mention the smell)!

What happened next, as community projects often start, was that one or two members of the community saw potential and decided to step up and change things – and the St James City Farm was born.

With resources a bit thin on the ground sometimes, it’s clear to see that community groups really can do a lot with a little and the St James City Farm is no exception.

Taking action in your local area

A local resident, Rob Palmer, decided to do something with the space and turn it into a place for the community to come together. Rob used his gardening skills, inspired some volunteers to get involved too and the transformation began.

11279557434_a6f3961ebc_zRob was joined by Jon Chance, another resident decided to contribute his skills as well. Jon is a very skilled craftsman, and so he collected some resources and used the space to teach woodcraft to young people in the area.

Now the benches in the community garden have been made by local residents, all of whom sharing the aim of doing something positive for the area.

The funny thing is, once community action gets started, it tends to grow. Once a seed is planted, it’s always exciting and surprising to see what activity will follow.

Inspiring others to get involved

So what did come next? They decided that the paths in the garden needed to be wheelchair accessible, but unfortunately, the materials to make this happen don’t come cheap.

Locals were inspired by the group’s work, and what followed was a local branch of Sainsbury’s donating some old crates that were used for bread. These crates are now under ground and provide the foundations for the paths.

A local building firm donated some road-covering materials and the City Council were able to donate a wheelchair ramp.

The result is a space  that’s open and accessible to everybody, that the community were able to build for the lowest possible cost.

What makes community projects unique?

young people gardening - off siteCommunity groups have a unique position in that they are able to provide services for their areas that no one else could. Their activities are tailored, low cost and provide services that are the perfect fit for the areas that they benefit. Here at Just Act, we reckon that’s priceless.

And what’s next for the folks at St James City Farm? They’ve started collecting the plastic from 2 litre drinks bottles. Sooner or later, they’ll have enough to build a greenhouse.

Head to the St James City Farm website for more information.

Do you run a community project and want to share your story? We’d love you to write us a guest blog. Drop us an email at to find out more…

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