Sowing seeds of a better neighbourhood

11 May 2016

By Azul Maite

A local charity has joined the Friends of Pentre Gardens group to transform a park which had “become a dog toilet” into an attractive welcoming area.

The first session was held on a crisp and sunny Saturday in March.

Local resident Inge Hanson said Pentre Gardens a few years ago was nothing more than “a dog toilet or a big trash can” strewn with rubbish and neglected. It wasn’t a place anyone thought they could enjoy and use.

Inge and a group of neighbours formed Friends of Pentre Gardens and started holding children’s play sessions, with help from Re-create, the play services association in Cardiff and the Vale.

The park was cleaned up and the residents took over the duties of opening and closing the park from the council.

Cardiff’s parks department has taken notice of their efforts and cut all the bushes, planted extra plants and their next steps are to re-do all the benches and the paths.

For this specific project, Grow Cardiff and Cardiff University have received a grant to help the Friends draw up a professional plan with the help of a landscape architect. In consultation with the community, a brief has been drawn up on what people want to see there.

The grant also provides them with practical help to complete the work.

The Grow Cardiff initiative aims to encourage more people to reconnect with nature, to bring people back to their roots and bring the community together.

It also wants to reinvigorate an area that has been neglected for too long by involving the residents, promoting a sense of ownership of the place amongst the residents.

Axel and Yin, qualified self-employed gardeners under contract to Grow Cardiff, were on hand to bring the brief drawn to life.

They helped prepare the ground, dug and checked the soil, as well as planted. According to Yin they were pleasantly surprised to discover that the soil is free draining sandy loam soil as opposed to clay. Clay would have made their tools sticky and their job a lot harder. Sandy loam, on the other hand, is easier to maintain andis better for the plants.

Yin and Axel explained that the planting has to be sympathetic to the conditions of the site – there is a lot of shade present due to three tall trees around the planting area, therefore they had chosen shade loving plants such as bluebells, vinca minor, hebe, hellebore, heuchera, sarcococca and tellima.

Grow Cardiff sets up and kickstarts the projects and then encourages residents to get involved, in this case local volunteers, children from local primary schools and park rangers.

Friends of Pentre Gardens are working in conjuction with Renata Harmsworth from St Patrick’s School, one of Grangetown’s 4 primary schools. Year 2 children (6 and 7 year olds) from St Patricks’s school planted the yellow crocuses two years ago as part of the school’s lunch hour gardening club, and since then they have gone on to plant the white and purple crocuses, three new trees and the daffodils that can be seen today in the park.

Renata said: “It’s great as it involves the children, gives them a sense of pride and they’re giving back to the community”.

Getting children involved in this kind of project not only teaches them great values such as respect for communal property and appreciation for the work they have done, as well as teaching them practical gardening skills. It gives them a sense of belonging to the community and it is now the kids who are telling people off when they see anyone destroying the plants!

To get involved with the projects you can follow Friends of Pentre Gardens on Facebook, or contact Inge Hanson: inge.hanson@btinternet.com.

Meanwhile, Friends of Pentre Gardens are hosting a Big Lunch in Pentre Gardens park from 12pm to 3pm on Sunday 5th June. They’ll be offering free play sessions for the kids and residents are invited to bring their favourite dish of food – they’ll provide paper plates and cutlery!

This is a longer version of an article in the new Grangetown News

See also our environment page

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