We've gone plant potty!

Reporter: Richard Hooton
Date published: 25 July 2017

RECYCLING residents in Royton have come up with some inventive ideas to create a unique community fruit and vegetable garden.

The group from the Holly Estate have got peas growing in a baby bath, broad beans in a laundry basket and carrots in a water cistern.

They're just some of the items being thrown away that they've put to use in their mission to be green and healthy.

The inventive bunch have also created garden equipment with benches made out of bedheads and a garden table out of old pallets.

The residents were keen to do something to improve their community life and local environment and with the help of First Choice Homes they have managed to make their dreams come true.

The group was formed by husband and wife team Anne and Colin Hancock and it has been a fantastic community affair with lots of residents contributing. They have planted over 35 different types of fruit and vegetables including pears, apples, strawberries, carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and much more in the flourishing garden.

Even those that can't garden have been participating by donating trinkets for the garden including solar lights, bird baths, bird feeders, waterproof cushions and ornaments, including a giraffe!

One resident who seldom left her flat, didn't easily engage in conversation and had trouble walking, has really changed as she has watched the garden take shape and her physical and mental health has markedly improved.

Anne Hancock has been amazed by the effect this garden has had on the local community.

She said: "It has created a real buzz of excitement locally and has become a focal point for residents to stop and chat and admire the wonderful work that has been achieved.

"But even more important is the effect it has had on lonely and isolated residents who are now seeing the positive side of life and really enjoying coming together with neighbours to work in or admire the garden. As the summer progresses we are hoping to get more elderly people to join us sitting in the garden and coming for a cup of tea."

Just producing fruit and vegetables and an amazing environment isn't the end of Anne's vision however, she is also planning to run outdoor cooking sessions in the summer so that neighbours can get to know what fruit and veg is in season and pick up ideas about how to cook them.

She is even planning on getting her son to make homemade pizzas with the vegetables on top and is busy saving up for an outdoor pizza oven.

Cath Green, chief executive from First Choice Homes visited the garden and was totally amazed.

She said: "I can't believe what the residents have achieved in such a short time. I am so impressed with their hard work and commitment in transforming this area into a productive and attractive community garden. Outdoor spaces can benefit the whole community creating areas to connect with neighbours, to relax and take part in physical activity.

"Our residents here are truly inspirational and we are hoping that more of our tenants will follow in their footsteps. We at First Choice Homes are really

impressed and we are going to assist them further by finishing off some of the paving in the garden to make it wheelchair accessible so that the whole community can enjoy the garden.

"I am delighted that the group attended our customer conference and won a raffle prize of £1,000 worth of equipment and ground works from local company Mitie. This enabled them to purchase gardening equipment and plants. The group also successfully applied for Green Dividend funding from Oldham Council and got allocated an ambassador."

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