Claire started volunteering at the All Saint’s community garden in Small Heath in February this year. With a passion for growing, gardening and, composting Claire was keen to get involved, lay the groundwork and help get things started with the growing space for local people to take ownership.
Claire feels that having access to green space is “part of what allows us to be human. And I think that we’re often cut off from nature and being outdoors and touching the soil or plants. And I think that actually most of us are better for having that… I think that particularly when times are harder, for mental and physical health, having access to space that is outdoors is just really important.”
Since working on the community garden, Claire has found it to be “a very welcoming space”, with people visiting form the local areas, many coming back several times.
“People who’ve really wanted to come, but maybe things like anxiety or whatever have prevented them… when they do arrive, they’ve said that they’ve loved it and they want to then come back and they do.”
It’s a space open to anyone and everyone. You don’t need to be an expert gardener, or physically fit, everyone is able to muck in and get on with what they feel comfortable doing, whether that’s potting some seeds or having a cup of tea and enjoying the fresh air.
“It’s neutral, it feels like everybody’s space when you come. …if you feel shy or anxious, you can get into a task and there’s no pressure to chat to anybody. If you want to chat, there’s plenty of people to talk to. And I think it’s just a low pressure kind of environment.”
Claire has experience working with lots of different people, and she’s combined these skills with her knowledge about composting and growing, to share and pass on the information.
“A skill for me has been learning how to explain about something I know about and enjoy doing with people who have come said, ‘I don’t know anything about that.’ And that that’s been really lovely for me to kind of get alongside people who want to learn that stuff and to explain it in a way that’s meeting different people where they’re at.”
Claire, alongside other volunteers and visitors to the site, has done some amazing work to the growing space, getting it to a point where it’s really starting to make a positive difference to people to people’s lives.
“A couple of people have said, they’ve not got out, they felt too anxious to do anything else. The only thing they felt able to do is to come here. And so actually, I think that just speaks of the power of just these precious outdoor growing spaces.”