Another Chat with Tim!

Posted on 19 Apr 2022

It’s been almost two years since we last had a chat with Tim Shelley, Project Leader of Haygrove’s Community Gardens initiative in Ross-on-Wye, and plenty has changed in that time! So, we sat down with him to discuss all things green… including the garden’s drive for sustainability post-pandemic, and the new zero waste stall.

The garden was initially set up to support adults with disabilities and mental health illness, but we found that the number of visitors began to plateau, so Tim and his team started to look at how to reach and to appeal to more service users, including other vulnerable groups within our community.

They soon began engaging with local schools in the Herefordshire area, and now the garden sees around 500 children a year pass through the gates for educational visits.

“We’re trying to use the garden as a safe space.”

However, when we were hit by the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, everything changed. “Our garden was set up to support people who were feeling isolated, and then, in that first lockdown, we were all isolated” Tim says. It was a difficult time for everyone, but particularly for those living in rural areas like Herefordshire. But, the team tried to support their regular service users in the best way possible, for example by sending out activity packs to those who were alone and struggling.

With plenty of time alone with his thoughts, the pandemic brought around a time of reflection for Tim. He reflected on the success of the garden, but was keen to make changes, in order to ensure the sustainability of the project, and of the people who used the gardens, too. Tim realised that if you want sustainable communities, they need access, education and support, particularly if people are struggling financially or with their health.

Without those things, how can anyone know where to start?

Tim and his team approached local supermarkets, put out a table, and the rest is history!

“The first thing we did was set up a zero waste stall, which helped us reduce surplus food waste, while reaching out and offering support to members of the community who were struggling financially.” The team, with the help of around 30 volunteers organised collections from supermarkets to take place 7 days a week, and open the stall 6 days a week. Last year, the zero waste stall gave away 27 tonnes of food!

“It’s amazing, because it’s having an impact; we’re reducing food waste in Ross-on-Wye, and we’re supporting loads of people.”

The community garden and the zero waste stall do not have a “typical” user; Tim and his team just want to reach as many people as possible. Thanks to the zero waste stall, many school visits, and several new clubs starting up, no two weeks ever look the same! With the zero waste stall, the team have been promoting a greater focus on food, and growing and cooking produce. These things are crucial to improving not only the sustainability of our local community, but also to supporting service users in creating healthy lifestyles. In rural areas like Herefordshire, communities need a ‘one-stop shop’ where they can eat, socialise and learn new skills, as this is far more accessible, especially when people are struggling financially. The community garden and the zero waste stall fill this local need with great success.

“Healthy eating, healthy lifestyles, healthy minds.”

At the end of our chat with Tim, he made a great point, in saying that “when we give of ourselves, and we help others, we get just as much back.”

The garden currently has approximately 70 regular volunteers. If you or anyone you know has some time to spare and are interested in becoming a volunteer, you can express your interest via the Ross-On-Wye  Community Gardens Facebook page, here.