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How Community Gardens Helped Me

Updated: Jul 12

This blog is written by Jake Hudson, volunteer at the Longmeadow way permaculture garden.

Back before COVID began, after we decided to leave the EU, I felt hopeless. None of the major political events in my lifetime had had the outcome I wanted, and I couldn’t see the point in engaging. If my vote means nothing, and effects no change, then what can I do?

This changed, and I began to feel hopeful again, after watching a short video by the Guardian columnist John Harris. In his series Anywhere but Westminster, he explores how local communities and local people are fighting for change relevant to them. In one video (which of course I cannot find now) he meets people running a local community garden. He shows how empowering they can be for local communities in causing the change they want to see. People feel isolated, they can join the gardening community. Poor access to good quality food, they’re supported to grow their own. Low mental health, they can get holistic support in a nourishing environment. This kind of empowerment, in spite of what may feel like resistance from central government, is what community gardens can achieve everywhere.

With this attitude in mind, I have sought to join and support community gardens wherever I can. I stumbled across Longmeadow Way Permaculture Garden whilst exploring my local neighbourhood not long after moving into Canterbury. From just my first visit I felt immediately welcomed, everyone there was having lunch, and immediately invited me to sit with them and share their food. Clearly this was going to be a great place to get to know my local community, and make new friends in a new town and a Sunday potluck lunch in the garden quickly became the highlight of my week.

Longmeadow Way Permaculture Garden

As I got to know everyone I was struck by the range of reasons they were there. Whilst I had initially joined to focus on growing plants and vegetables, as I find this greatly benefits my mental health, not many of the were actually there for growing. Instead, most wanted to use it as a relaxing “3rd space” where they can hang out, relax, and meet friends.  This solves yet another need many, especially young people, find is not currently being met in society. “3rd spaces”, which are neither work nor home, are increasingly difficult to access. Rising cost of living means pubs, bars, and café’s may not be accessible locations to meet people, and there are few alternatives. Yet clearly community gardens, with their immense flexibility to become what the community needs, can help solve this issue too.

Sadly, not long-ago Longmeadow Way Permaculture Garden closed. Yet out of the ashes HavenWeb has been born! I am incredibly excited to see where this project goes, and what community niche it will find and fill. I met Maria and Trevor at Longmeadow Way, so I know they’re committed to making a fantastic garden for everyone.  The potential already looks incredible, and I cannot wait to visit their garden to see how its benefiting the community, and how I can support them to do so. I'm so excited to join them on Wednesday the 17th of April at 18:00, and you can join too here.

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