Ainsdale Village Church Community Garden
A piece of land at the front of the church which has been transformed into a garden for the use of the local community.
Ainsdale United Reformed Church is a church in the centre of the village which forms part of the Southport conurbation. It had a piece of undeveloped land in front of it. There were trees that were in urgent need of removal and a bank that was in danger of slippage. In 2008 it was decided to redevelop the land as a garden for the local community. At the time, the church was looking to increase its community involvement. The local council became involved and a sub-group was set up which included a garden designer, interested people from the church and the local councillor, Brenda Porter.
The Garden was intended from the beginning as a piece of urban parkland where people could go to enjoy the garden, sit and reflect and that it would be a focal point for the village. The church would be offering hospitality for the people of Ainsdale and would remove the sense of barrier between church and village property.
As time progressed, the garden has become a focal point of the village and has won a number of awards from the Royal Horticultural Society “Neighbourhood in Bloom” scheme including being classed as “outstanding” for the past 3 years.
The sub group continues to develop the garden, changing the plants with the seasons so that it is forever fresh and a reminder of the abundance of God’s creation.
- Where did the idea come from? How did it start?
In 2008, the church resolved to develop their land as a garden area. Also in 2008 Sefton Borough Council undertook to provide green spaces within the borough. A local councillor, Brenda Porter approached the church suggesting that its land could be used as part of this initiative.
- Who is it for and what needs is it meeting?
It is intended both for the church and for members of the village as a whole.
- What preparation did you do?
A local councillor provided advice on funding. A garden designer was engaged to provide a vision which was modified in the light of available funds/human resources.
- What resources did you need (money, people, expertise etc) and how did you find them?
Councillor Brenda Porter used her contacts to provide additional funding. Local businesses were approached for sponsorship. Sponsorship of planters, seats etc was sought from organisations and individuals. Some contractors eg. for paths provided the work at cost. Approximately £10,000 has been spent on the project to date. In addition to contractors, regular working parties were established, mainly drawn from the church membership. This has also become augmented by other people from the local community.
- Who have been your partners in the project?
As stated earlier, Sefton Borough Council has provided support. A semi-autonomous organisation within the Sefton umbrella, Sefton Coastal and Countryside was engaged to construct and install trellises, benches and planters at cost. They provide work experience to people including some with learning disabilities. Ainsdale Horticultural Society has provided ongoing support both with expertise and financial. Dobbie’s Garden centre have provided plants free of charge and Asda have provided support. The church works closely with Ainsdale Civic Society. A local school maintained some of the planters for a time.
- How did the congregation get on board?
From the inception, a number of the congregation with interest in gardening were active participants. The project has received wholehearted support.
- What were the key steps to get from idea to day 1 and how long did it take?
The key steps were to identify initial funding, start a working group and engage the garden designer, then get a contractor to clear the land. This probably took about 2 years.
- What legislation did you have to deal with?
- Impact on Community
- What impact has this project had on the life of the community?
People go there to eat their lunch, some visitors go to reflect in quiet. It is used as a venue for outdoor worship, the village Christmas tree is now sited there. The church participates in the local village fun day and many stalls and a barbeque are sited in the garden. Pupils from a nearby special school come to the garden. At a recent wedding, Pimms was served on the lawn! It has become a focus for the village.
- How has this changed the relationship between the church and the community? The boundary between the church and the wider community has become more porous. People are now feeling happier to come onto church land. There are no gates so that people are always welcome.
- Impact on Church
- How does the project connect with your faith and mission?
We feel that It accords with the following statements for Vision 2020:
Statement 4: Community Partnerships
Statement 5: Hospitality and Diversity
Statement 10: The integrity of creation.
It has strengthened the link between the church and the community, it has provided a good ”shop window” for the church. It means that we can offer hospitality for the community on our premises without being threatening. We have tried to be as sustainable as possible with the garden, reclaiming water, composting waste etc.
- How has the life of the church been transformed because of this project?
As a spin off result, 2 more of the statements for Vision 2020 have been realised: In Statement 7: Church Growth and Statement 6: Evangelism. The church has been perceived as a welcoming place and a number of people have joined the congregation (including the Councillor and her husband). Some people retiring to flats in the vicinity have been able to continue their interest in their hobby by helping with the garden and have integrated into church life. The garden has been an asset for worship with open air services in the summer, carol singing around the civic Christmas tree and dressing of the cross at Easter.
Additional resources and Weblinks
Revd Peter J Lyth [email protected]PDF