Community garden in Loughton to flourish thanks to funding boost

20th October 2021

A volunteer community garden project in Loughton has received a welcome funding boost to continue providing healthy outdoor activities for local people and support mental well-being.

Restore Community (RC) received £4,000 from the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF).

RC supports people of all ages and helps to meet the needs of local communities in West Essex.  As well as their impressive community garden, they run the Oakwood Hill Community Centre in Debden where a range of activities for children and young people take place, including holiday clubs where the children who would normally receive free school meals can engage in crafts, sports and they also receive a hot lunch.

In addition, they offer support services for vulnerable residents and those needing help with accessing local services.

Jo Mackey, Head of Restore Community said, “All of the projects benefit the local community, including low-income families who are unable to afford the mainstream playgroups and activities for their children.  The Community Garden has been particularly helpful to people who have felt isolated after the COVID-19 pandemic and who have found a sense of well-being by being able to volunteer.

“Everything we have achieved in the GROW Garden has been the collective effort of people in the community who have come together and volunteered their time to create this inclusive and supportive space.

“The social connections and friendships formed are an important part of our project and this helps to combat social isolation.

“The Garden is open twice a week and we also host a group of adults with learning difficulties and a group of young people with special educational needs and complex disabilities who work alongside our community volunteers.

“We love growing organic fruit and vegetables together and everyone who joins us experiences the benefits of social connection, physical activity and teamwork.”

The High Sheriff of Essex, Simon Brice, visited the community garden and surprised Brian, a garden volunteer, by presenting him with a High Sheriff certificate.

This was in recognition of Brian’s dedication and contribution to the gardening project.

Simon said: “This Award is thoroughly well-deserved.  Brian is one of their core volunteers and I was told that he always goes the ‘extra mile’.

“Brian attends every session, all year round, and helps the other volunteers, some of whom have special needs and disabilities, to ensure that they can meaningfully take part and contribute to the project.

“He brings vast experience and knowledge of both gardening and construction to the site and during my visit I was very impressed with the brilliant work that is being done at GROW. They have such a positive impact in the local community and help to bring people together.”

Jo added, “Brian is a real asset to the community garden – he is the brains, the brawn and the heart of all that we do.”

If you are a local charity or voluntary organisation that is in need of funding to support your work, please contact ECF on 01245 356018 or click here for more information.