Sowing the seeds of change


Jeff Spencer sitting on a bench in the community garden, next to two plant potsNot long ago, this community garden in Silver End was an unloved plot of land, overgrown with unsightly shrubs and thorny blackberry bushes.

But look at it now!

A community-minded group of villagers have transformed the site into a resplendent nature garden, run by and for local residents.

Labour of love

Jeff Spencer crouching by a flowerbed, smilingAfter noticing the eyesore, pals Jeff Spencer, Steve Wicks and Danny Ball approached Eastlight, which owns the land, to ask if we would lease it to them. Impressed by their go-getting approach and green-fingered goals, we readily agreed.

After diligently ploughing through various administrative tasks and adding Lisa Knight and Tony Frogget to a newly-formed committee, they set to work.

Steve and Danny have been the backbone of the gardening work. Danny said: “We cut down six-foot-high weeds, rotated the land and planted new seeds.

“We brought on a shed to store plants, built a polytunnel greenhouse, and even created a pond from an old fibre glass rowing boat. We’ve planted more than 400 bulbs since we started.”

More recently, the team has built rockery walls and perfected the pond, now home to more than 30 fish species. Their work isn’t done, and Jeff and team are exploring the potential for solar panels.

Helped by donations from donations from Braintree District Council, Perrywoods Garden Centre and British Garden Centres, the garden is thriving.

Steve said: “We’ve got raspberries, gooseberries, apples, pears, lettuces, cucumbers and beetroot – and local residents now come to buy their £1 bundles of the produce. We’ve also added hedgehog houses, bird boxes and insect boxes.”

Community hub

This summer the garden has become a hub of activity for local residents. Lisa explained: “We’ve had a lot of interest from the community, and it’s been fantastic to see everyone sat there and thoroughly enjoying the food donations and the space.

“It’s peaceful here and at the heart of nature – a great place to meet up and have a chat. Everybody looks forward to coming and speaking to their neighbours here now.”

Community Volunteer, Tony Frogget, added: “The garden keeps your mind and body active – and it’s great for the environment, too.”

It’s an important topic that has inspired a love of learning for the Committee Treasurer and Founder, Jeff Spencer, who said: “I’m reading about gardening now! My pet love is the pond and the fish. I’ve learned a lot about their feeding habits… and the different things you can do to help improve their habitat.”

Calling all community changemakers!

Lauren Brimson, Eastlight Community Empowerment Officer, has been particularly impressed with Jeff & co.’s proactive, can-do approach, saying: “What makes this project stand out is that residents have done it off their own bat, taking the initiative to identify a piece of Eastlight land that was not in use, bring us in and turn it into a beautiful community space that will have massive social impact for many local residents.”

Have you got a budding community project idea for your local area? Please contact us here to see if we can get it off the ground – together!

You can also read about other ongoing Eastlight community projects – and how to get involved – here.

The pond and community garden