Welcome to The Paddock community garden in Ovenden

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by Lynne Caldwell and Joan Tillotson

The Paddock is a newly built community garden sitting in the midst of three council estates in Ovenden (Rugby, Athol and Grove). It serves a large and diverse community, old and young with some ethnic minority groups too. Having access to safe, accessible and attractive green spaces is a determinant for being physically active, here's proof...

Where did the idea start?

Joan and I started a petition around 18 months ago and with some brilliant support from our Community Organisers, we managed to get the key last year. This included getting feedback from the local area, it wasn’t all positive but was in the main and enough to give us the incentive to carry on. We have faced some pockets of resistance but with careful relationship building, this has been managed and even turned to the positive.

I won’t lie, it’s not been easy, there has literally been blood, sweat and tears…and no funding. But it was all worth it, the housing authority that was resistant actually awarded us prizes in their gardening competition last year which we revelled in! We have built planters, installed three benches and a litter bin which is well used and saves the immediate area from litter. We managed to put out five tables of FREE food during a pandemic which is a great achievement for two women who, by their own admission, are ‘knocking on’.

Community garden green space surrounded by wooden fence and with plenty of grass and potted plants. The garden is also showing a black and white dog sat beside wooden benches.

How does the local community use The Paddock?

It’s now a well-used area, it’s safe for children as fenced and gated so the local SureStart centre uses it often. They have contributed rainbows for the NHS, poppies for Remembrance Day and decorated it for Christmas.

Being next to some elderly housing means that those local people who do not have gardens now have a place to visit, with a friend when possible. On a few occasions, we have been told they have just gone with a ‘brew’ for a chat.

Families used it in the summer for picnics and the Fairy circle is brilliant at keeping young children entertained looking for the little inhabitants of the houses.

Nothing is ever wasted, we have built planters from old beds, cots, wardrobes, bookcases and cabinets. Recycling at its best, saving them all from landfill. Plants have been donated as well as funded by ourselves (mostly Joan) and we have a bumper lot planned for this year.

We have definitely seen a rise in interest, I suppose because it’s being a sustained project, not just a whim. It changes every day with something new, a donated pond will be installed this weekend so that we can attract more wildlife.

It’s been perfect for social distancing and we have had feedback that it’s been a blessing to have somewhere to go during the COVID-19 lockdown when the parks are not so close.

What has this project meant to you?

Personally, for me and Joan, it’s kept us going too. It’s been a journey we have gone on together, it’s kept us active and focused during the pandemic and definitely given us something positive to keep our sights on.

With Spring around the corner and Summer not far behind we are very excited.

What's next for The Paddock?

We would love for other groups to now use it. The middle area is deliberately kept clear of planting to allow groups to use it freely, maybe a Yoga group, Taekwondo etc. If anyone needs some space to use please get in touch. This is not our garden, it belongs to the community, we just help make it happen.

This space is there for anyone to use, we want it to be used, it’s worth all that effort if people enjoy it!

Support in any way, shape or form would be great. We have finally got a bank account sorted so can apply for some funds but donations of soil, planters, tools or anything are always welcome.

The dream would be to expand and really liven up other areas, get the community to take pride in where they live. Ovenden gets a bad press at times but the people are great, they just need opportunities. Anti-social behaviour has actually reduced according to a neighbour, now that the space is used for something.

Children are involved that live locally and they are interested, last year picking carrots out of the ground and eating them fresh after a quick wipe.

We love it, please support us!

Suzanne Straughan, Active Calderdale's North Halifax Engagement Co-ordinator, shares how she's enjoyed working alongside everyone at The Paddock

At Active Calderdale, we recognise how an asset like The Paddock can provide the local community with much-needed opportunities on their doorstep to move more in a way that's welcoming, safe, and free. Building on the work already undertaken, we looked to support Joan and Lynne promote and develop the active opportunities the Paddock can offer.

Aside from helping to obtain materials for the running of the garden, by linking to the local Parks Team who provided much needed compost. We’ve been working with Joan and Lynne to help reach out and strengthen relationships with other local community organisations.

These include;

  • Nick the Social Prescriber Link Worker, often based in Nursery Lane Medical Centre who will be including the community garden as a resource to refer to.
  • Pennine Magpies who are keen to explore the Paddock to widen local opportunities for their members who have learning disabilities.
  • Healthy Minds who are looking to use local green spaces to enhance their mental wellbeing sessions.
  • We’re currently requesting permission from Together Housing to enable community activities to run on the space. This could include training opportunities for local people.

Joan and Lynne are also members of the Ovenden Moving Network. This provides the opportunity to share skills, spaces and resources, and develop shared objectives relating to supporting physical activity in the area. Active Calderdale are supporting network members to promote, develop and link green spaces in Ovenden, making it easier and more attractive to get out and about.

We're always welcoming physical activity providers, community organisations and other system leaders to partner with us. Find out how you can help tackle inequalities in Calderdale and create change by emailing us at activecalderdale@calderdale.gov.uk.