Digbeth Community Garden

Shaz reflects on what a vibrant community space Digbeth Community Garden has become.

Digging Holes

Yesterday I cycled  to Digbeth Community Garden to help out. Stalwart Adam was joined by Fabio and me. We dug holes. As we dug these holes, I listened to the birds chirp in the garden. I thought about all of the hard work that had gone into creating this wildlife haven and community space. I thought I’d write about it.

Reflections

About five years ago an abandoned and neglected space next to Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s Warehouse building was taken on by volunteers. The space had huge potential to be a vibrant community space that could be fantastic for wildlife. Initially it took a lot of work to clear the space. Nettles, and brambles dominated the area. Once we saw the open space we saw the true potential for the garden.

Creating a nature friendly space

A team of volunteers led by Adam MCcusker, Ben Mabbett and Jake Williams set about transforming the space. I helped from time to time. We discovered that the land was contaminated with arsenic meaning that we had to have raised beds, rather than growing things directly in the ground. One way in which we helped create a nature friendly space was to install ponds. Frogs, insects and other wildlife have taken to these ponds. I helped dig trenches for water to over flow when the rain is heavy.

pond

Another nature friendly measure in the garden is the bee hive that we have. Birmingham Friends of the Earth successfully crowdfunded to raise enough money to install two bee hives in the garden. I’ve had honey collected from Digbeth Community Garden on my Weetabix. It was delicious.

The labour was often torturous. I distinctly remember shoveling big piles of dirt and rubble from one area of the garden to another, which took hours, only to be told that the new pile would have to be moved. We used reclaimed materials where we could and followed permaculture principles. Bathtubs are now full of wildlife friendly plants. Elaborate water butt systems were implemented, failed and then reimplemented. Potatoes, Curry Plants amongst many other things are grown in the garden. What is grown in the garden is used by the volunteers with some of the herbs being used by the Warehouse Café.  With all of the chirping from the birds you can barely tell that you are in Birmingham City Centre. As you are surrounded by nature it is easy to forget about all of the traffic and commotion that is taking place a hundred metres away.

garden 1

A community space

The other main aim for Digbeth Community Garden was to create a vibrant community space within the city centre, Measures have been put in place to make the space appealing to humans as well as nature. We’ve had several iterations, but we now have a robust bar, which also acts as a store for wood. Next to the bar is a pizza oven made from reclaimed bricks.

bar
The bar

We’ve created a stage for bands that is imaginatively named the “garden stage” A large number of bands have graced the garden stage, playing gigs, though sadly for me no Slipknot tribute bands as of yet.

stage
The Garden Stage

I’ve served burgers for The Real Junk Food Project Birmingham at some of these events. Birmingham Friends of the Earth regularly hold events in the garden, including environmental workshops. I’ve even done yoga with Aldo in the garden. The space can be used for a whole variety of things.

Sometimes it is just nice to sit in the garden and watch the world go by. It is such a peaceful place to be. We often get people wandering into the garden to check it out. Occasionally people sit in the garden to enjoy their lunch and to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. After we had finished digging holes, Adam, Fabio and myself enjoyed a Polish beer and what the label described as Polish lemonade. Fabio had his doubts as to whether this was lemonade.

Yesterday the holes I dug were to help create a sturdy table set up for those who want to meet in the garden. Meeting indoors is problematic whilst Covid 19 dominates our lives. Digbeth Community Garden can be hired as a meeting room space. If you need a nice, and pleasant outdoor space for small to medium sized groups then Digbeth Community Garden can be your outdoor meeting room space. There are gazebos available in case of heavy rain and power supply too.

If you want to hire Digbeth Community Garden for a meeting or event please contact meet@birminghamfoe.org.uk. To learn more about Digbeth Community Garden check out their facebook page

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