Older residents team up with Eastlight support to transform community garden

Woodlands residents posing as a crowd behind their revamped community garden and allotment

A close-knit community of older Eastlight residents are hoping to see the fruits (and veg) of their labour after coming together to transform the community garden with the support of Eastlight staff.

Residents at the Woodlands Estate in Braintree, which is an Eastlight Housing for Older People Scheme, have formed the Woodlands Gardening Club in an effort to give their communal garden a bit of TLC and transform it into a flourishing allotment and social space.

Started by residents Ian Chapman, 62, and Richard Smith, 79, the idea had humble beginnings, with the pair simply wanting to show some love to the overgrown garden. Since then though the club has gone from strength to strength, with other residents joining forces and donating their time, tools, seeds and plants to give the garden a new lease of life.

So far, the club has refurbished their greenhouse, cleared bags full of weeds, waste and rubbish, removed overgrown bushes and planted vegetables like rhubarb, potatoes, tomatoes and sprouts, to name but a few of their achievements.

The project has been backed by Eastlight throughout, with Estate Safety Officer Helen Mackley leading efforts to support the club. Eastlight staff have been on hand to help remove the collected rubbish and garden waste, provided new Perspex panels for the greenhouse repairs, provided wood to create trellis and plant supports and also helped fund the purchase of tools and seeds by gifting garden centre gift vouchers.

Helen is proud of the impact the club has had on the Woodlands community. She said: “The community spirit is growing, and the residents involved are enjoying seeing their planted seeds thrive.

“The club members are feeling the benefit of being outside, keeping busy in the fresh air, enjoying the social interaction, keeping physically active and giving them a positive mental focus.”

The garden has undergone an unbelievable transformation and has led to it becoming a valuable social space. With the refurbishment of their garden furniture, the Woodlands residents are using the garden as a place to come out for a chat or to sit and have a coffee or read a book.

Helen added: “The communal garden is looking much more cared for, and the residents are doing a great job of working together and making joint decisions on what to grow and how to plan their seasonal produce.

“It is encouraging and rewarding to see residents benefitting from working together to achieve a common goal. They’re rightly proud to show their wonderful progress and have been very grateful for any help Eastlight have provided. 

“We’re very willing to support residents with initiatives that help improve community spirit and help those feel less isolated and more involved in their home environment.”