More than 90 local people have come together in the sunshine to celebrate the first event in a North Tyneside’s charity’s new community garden.
After moving into new headquarters on Earsdon Road in Shiremoor in 2017, the team at the North Tyneside Disability Forum has been gradually making improvements inside and outside the building in order to provide a safe place that local people can enjoy visiting.
Part of the project has included creating a welcoming garden space, which now includes more than 20 maturing fruit trees as well as a wide range of other plants, herbs and vegetable crops.
And with the easing of lockdown restrictions, the Forum has now held its first, socially distanced party in the garden to share and celebrate what is now available to local service users and their families, as well as other local residents.
The garden project has been supported with a £5,000 grant from regional property and energy firm The Banks Group’s Banks Community Fund, which has also covered the cost of solar powered security lights, a new greenhouse and solar-powered heater, four water butts to collect rainwater to be recycled and reused, and three composters to process vegetation into compost for reuse on the soil.
A selection of bee-friendly plants has been seeded in the garden’s raised beds to encourage greater biodiversity in the area, while nesting boxes and feeders have also been installed around the grounds to attract more birdlife.
Banks has been a long-term supporter of the North Tyneside Disability Forum, with a £5,000 grant given in 2018 allowing for a sheltered patio area for visitors to be built alongside its headquarters.
Founded more than 30 years ago, North Tyneside Disability Forum works with and for local disabled people, their representatives, friends and families to ensure disabled people are able to participate on equal terms in society with choice and control over their own lives.
In normal times, it provides a wide range of free activities for more than 300 people every week, from photography, Tai Chi and music classes to creative arts, drama and a cinema club, and the delivery of its services is supported by a 120-strong team of volunteers.
Its café also provides vocational training and work experience opportunities for some of the charity’s service users with learning disabilities, with a view to equipping them with new workplace skills.
Liz Turnbull, lead community development worker at North Tyneside Disability Forum, says: “It’s taken a lot of hard work by a lot of people to create our new garden, but it’s wonderful to see what we now have in place and to be able to share it with our local community.
“Many of our garden party guests have barely been able to get out of their homes for the last 18 months, which made sitting in the summer sunshine extra special for all of us, and seeing so many people out enjoying themselves made it quite an emotional day.
“We’ve created a safe, welcoming area that local people can come and enjoy, and with pandemic restrictions now easing, we’d love to see as many people as possible coming along to see what we can offer, especially while the warmer weather’s still with us.
“Banks’ contributions have made such a difference to what we’ve been able to do over the last few years and we’re hugely grateful for the support they’ve provided.”
Jeannie Raine, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The Forum has created a real oasis for people living in and around its community. It’s wonderful to see how everything has come together and great for us to be part of a project that will benefit hundreds of local families for many years to come.”
Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations looking for grant funding from the Banks Community Fund should contact The County Durham Community Foundation on 0191 378 6342 or visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/corporate-responsibility/banks-community-fund/