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  • Writer's pictureKath Burton

Uncovering the Wellbeing Benefits of Community Gardens in Reading: A Green Oasis for All

In this latest post, we offer a wellbeing tour around Reading's community gardens. 💚

This post has been kindly created by Rowena Hughes, secretary and social media co-ordinator for the Reading Green Wellbeing Network.


Every garden is unique and reflects its gardeners as much as its location, as I’ve been finding out, exploring the community gardens of Reading. Last November I took on the role of social media co-ordinator for the Reading Green Wellbeing Network, a network of organizations, most of which run community gardens. This has given me the opportunity to explore these gardens and find out how different they each are.


garden scene with red plants in foreground
The cornus bed in the Ridgeline Trust garden

Traditionally, gardens consist of flower beds carved out of a lawn and bounded by a wall, fence or hedge. The secluded Ridgeline Trust therapeutic garden takes this traditional form. Although hidden from the outside behind a hedge, once entered the garden opens out before you - a central lawn surrounded by flower beds, and behind these, vegetable and soft fruit. Within the lawn there are three large trees that pre-date the garden itself.  These provide shade and a focus in a site which is otherwise largely sunny for much of the day.

Viewed from within, the garden is further sheltered by the surrounding mature trees of Reading University, adding to the feeling of seclusion.

Raised beds have become popular for growing vegetables. These are usually rectangular wooden structures that can be filled with compost or top soil and clearly demark the areas to be cultivated. The community garden around the Aisha Masjid (mosque) includes 16 such raised beds, ranged along the south side of the mosque car park. These have been filled with soil from the site which was once part of the land worked by Sutton’s seeds. The exuberant growth of vegetables in these beds is testament to the richness of the soil, and their sheltered location. These are good for teaching and showcasing vegetable growing to the many visitors to the mosque garden.

A garden scene with plants and containers
Growing vegetables in the raised beds in the garden of Aisha Masjid

The raised beds at the Holy Brook Nook, also largely filled with vegetables, have a completely different feel. Nestled in a clearing among the wild plants and trees of this stretch of woodland in the heart of Reading, these are arranged in a cluster and range in height from those you kneel at to those you to stand at to tend. There is no true boundary to this garden and passersby may stop to observe, or pick the vegetables or chat, or just enjoy the quiet green space.


Two people gardening in an open green setting
Tending the vegetable beds at Holy Brook Nook

In contrast, the Erleigh Road Community Garden is well hidden, with the only clue being the picture of a watering can on its wooden gate. This opens to reveal a lovingly cultivated triangle of land bounded by the gardens of the neighbouring terrace houses and St Luke’s church hall. This garden captures both the natural feel of wild plants left to grow around the compost area and the order of vegetable growing around a central pergola. In keeping with the brickwork of the surrounding Victorian houses, the borders are edged with loose bricks. A grape vine and hops cover the pergola and the garden boundaries are lined with fruit trees and bushes.

Green plants and soil
Vegetable beds and fruit bushes in Erleigh Road Community Garden

Community gardens come in many shapes and sizes and serve different purposes. They may aim to teach and demonstrate the joys of gardening, or provide communities with green spaces to enjoy. They may also be quiet places for reflection and creativity for those who work in them.

Rowena Hughes, May 2024




 

Rowena Hughes has recently retired from a career in medical writing and is now a volunteer at four of Reading’s community gardens. She is also secretary and social media co-ordinator for the Reading Green Wellbeing Network.

For further information on the gardens described here, including for volunteering and visiting, see https://ridgelinetrust.org.uk/ for Ridgeline Trust; http://bigardens.org/ for Aisha Masjid, and https://www.food4families.org.uk/ for Holy Brook Nook and Erleigh Road Community Garden.


If you would like to know more about Reading's community gardens get in touch and bookmark our Community Plate pages for more details about growing in and around the town.


 




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