Sow the City (STC) is a Manchester based social enterprise with a mission to empower communities to grow and live sustainably.

They do this by working with a diverse range of marginalised groups across Manchester, and the majority of their projects encourage skill-building, social interaction, provide financial benefits and promotion of mental and physical health.

In this particular project, that we’re funding from our Stronger Communities Fund, STC will be working in partnership with Oak Lodge in Withington, a temporary accommodation service providing support to female adults and children experiencing homelessness and fleeing domestic violence. The centre offers support to help families feel safe and comfortable and guidance on moving on to new accommodation.

STC aim to support staff and residents in developing skills in growing and cooking healthy food, with a project they’re calling the “Oak Lodge Wellbeing Garden”. Gardening activities will allow residents to learn and grow together, encourage social integration, and help families to gain confidence and to feel safe. It goes without saying that recent lockdown restrictions, particularly in Manchester, have restricted vital social engagement, so STC tell us that they hope this will provide the opportunity to offer safe, outdoors socialising. This project ticks ALL of the boxes our Stronger Communities Fund was created to cater for, from making our city a more green space to engaging isolated individuals, and we can’t wait to tell you more about it as the project continues and develops.

The Wellbeing Garden work will focus on the transformation of Oak Lodge’s garden space, where they’ll be engaging everyone from the staff to the residents to give birth to a flourishing green environment that is currently underused and doesn’t encourage people to enjoy the space. This will include space for growing edible produce which residents will be able to harvest and forage themselves, and for enriching the biodiversity of the environment by making it a wildlife friendly space for insects.

The main components of the Wellbeing Lodge’s build include:

  • clearing and tidying the existing site
  • construction of two new raised beds for easy access growing of fruit and vegetables
  • raised beds with climbers, insect friendly, and native plants
  • planting fruit trees and fruit bushes (e.g. apples, plums, blackcurrants, raspberries)

Oak Lodge provides housing for families who may have experienced domestic abuse and have had turbulent home lives. Gardening and access to relaxing greenspace provides therapeutic, meaningful, and social activity and space to benefit families through their journey of recovery. The turnover of families at the centre will mean these new growing facilities and improved greenspace will benefit families for years to come.

As part of the project, STC will work alongside centre staff to deliver informative growing and cooking sessions, teaching hugely valuable life skills such as teaching residents basic carpentry, tool use, gardening skills and how to make healthy meals from scratch. All food and fruit grown will feed into communal cooking sessions which doubles up as a fantastic group activity whilst also learning how to cook healthily. STC are going to use their specialist knowledge to measure the economic impact (money saved from growing instead of buying food) and also the environmental impact (how much carbon is saved through fewer food miles and new, better quality green space).

After having spent a lot of Winter clearing the area for work to begin, STC have already got started during the important late Winter/early Spring period for planting, having planted 6 fruit trees and four new raised beds for veg! The space is now ready for residents to begin growing and they’ve made plans to run sessions with residents, beginning in the Easter holidays next week, where residents will plant fruit bushes, install composters and learning about composting, sowing seeds and planting veggie seedlings and planting herbs and climbing plants. The growing, maintenance and use of the garden space will continue over many years, which is why “green” projects are so valuable for the longevity of efforts to make our city sustainable and beneficial to all residents.

We’re so proud of all the work Oak Lodge residents and Sow The City are doing together supported by our funding, and can’t wait to give you regular updates on their progress!

 

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