Plot to Plate with the La Salle Kitchen Gardeners.

The last few months of 2021 introduced a new project at the La Salle Kitchen Garden in Croxteth. Our partners at Faiths4Change who run these Nature4Health sessions saw a need to help educate the garden’s participants further on how to use the fresh produce collected. This is known as the ‘Plot to Plate’ group.

This new group of 7 participants worked together on both managing the garden and learning new skills together. With a growing confidence in gardening and strong rewards of fresh fruit and veg, there was often lots of good produce harvested. At La Salle, there is a huge variety of produce despite the size of the garden and team who work on it weekly. This includes beans, onions, brassicas and even melons!

The aim of the ‘Plot to Plate’ group was to enable more participants to feel confident in cooking with this fresh food. So far, the group have created and shared 11 plant-based meals, all made from the produce they have harvested together. This has encouraged the group to learn new skills such as cooking, weeding, overwintering crops and making compost. ‘Plot to Plate’ has also encouraged the group to be more adventurous with food by inventing their own combinations, and feel more connected with where their food comes from.

As well as adopting a taste for healthy, plant-based recipes, the group have also benefited socially. One participant hoped for a local activity to fill their free-time, whereas another, who had recently moved to Liverpool, aimed to meet new people and find a near-by hobby.

Attending to La Salle Kitchen Garden has enabled a diverse mix of individuals to become friends. This has particularly benefitted two individuals who have bonded over the unfortunate event of losing a loved one recently. They now enjoy meeting outside of the group too.

The future is bright for this small yet brilliant group, with one member adopting a ‘Plot to Plate’ plant-based recipe book using photos taken from each session.

If you would like to meet new people, adopt a healthier lifestyle or simply fill your time, sessions at La Salle take place each Wednesday over the course of 12-weeks between the hours of 12:30 – 3 pm. The next course is due to begin in February, 2022 although a current course is presently ongoing.

We’re always looking for new participants so why not join for the new year! Sessions are completely free and require no experience in either cooking or gardening! Please contact Elizabeth via email at Elizabeth.Mason@merseyforest.org.uk or Rhianna at Rhianna.Weston@merseyforest.org.uk for more information or if interested.

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St. Michael in the City: Crystal

Our Nature4Health programme aims to improve our participants’ lives. Whilst we may not be able to solve everything, we often hear of and see our participants’ successes, whether this be an improvement in their social life or their health and fitness. However, some participants have even found new careers after attending our groups.

Having recently accepted employment at St. Michael’s garden, Crystal shared her success story with us.

Crystal began her adventure with a few potted indoor plants. Despite the many struggles most of us face when caring for plants, Crystal persevered and taught herself some tips and tricks.

Yet with a growing interest in gardening, and a passion for self-sufficiency and sustainability, Crystal decided to reach out to Myerscough College where she was first introduced to St. Michael in the City. Many other participants attend Myerscough College with Crystal, and St. Michael’s has given them all a space where they can put their new skills into practice.

Impressively, Crystal now manages to work three jobs: each fitting an interest of hers. However, she has just taken on the role of Creative Projects Worker at St. Michael’s to challenge herself. Crystal chooses to tackle everything with positivity, and collaboratively running the weekly sessions has made her feel happier, as well as a sense of achievement.

Crystal describes the garden as a wonderful place full of laughter and stories, where strong relationships are created.

“There really is something magical and compelling about the garden and the kind of people that it attracts.”

Like most of us, the importance of connecting with others is no longer over-looked and is greatly treasured.

“The pandemic has had some sort of effect on everyone, and during lock-down people found ways to keep busy. For some, gardening was a way to handle that stress, to stay present and to find gratitude. People started re-evaluating their lives. The garden has bought so much joy. It is a place to share and laugh, and that is priceless.”

Other than benefitting her health and wellbeing, Crystal has learned new skills, and continues doing so the more she works at St. Michael’s. Other volunteers are now great friends of hers, and they all help one another with various tasks in the garden, from building plant beds to crop maintenance.

“Being around people who share the same goal and ideas, what’s not to love? My mental health comes first, and I already try and do different things to help with that: yoga, meditation, guitar. The garden was just an add on bonus which aided to that; a special haven bang in the middle of the city!”

Why not see for yourself how getting involved can benefit you? Check out our website’s ‘Get Involved‘ and ‘Activities‘ sections for more details!

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St. Michael’s in the city: Bertha

In the Baltic Triangle, Liverpool, great progress has been made at St. Michael in the City’s community garden. This group is led by our partners at Faiths4Change, and is proudly funded by The National Lottery.

St. Michael’s is another great example of how beneficial our programme can be to so many individuals; not to mention how beneficial you all are to our Nature4Health Programme!

Bertha has attended St. Michael’s garden since June, so is fairly new to the group. Despite this, Bertha has always lived in the area, and once worked as a Sunday school teacher at St. Michael’s church.

Now retired, Bertha decided to find a new hobby to fill her time and meet new people. Her previous career as a mental health support worker showed Bertha how spending time in green space can vastly improve your wellbeing.

“I saw the benefits it had on others when I used to take my group to a community garden in Walton. I thought it would help me too.”

Bertha couldn’t believe the paradise that was on her doorstep.

“It’s the best thing I’ve done! It gets me up and out of the house, and I’m genuinely excited to learn new things and see my friends each week here at the garden. We always have a good laugh.”

Like many of our participants, Bertha has seen great improvements in multiple areas of her life after joining the group. After all, it’s never too late to meet new people, learn fresh skills and improve your health!

If, like Bertha, you’d like to take on a new hobby and live in either Merseyside or North Cheshire, please contact Clare Olver via Clare.Olver@merseyforest.org.uk for more details on our various volunteer groups. There’s something for everyone!

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St. Margaret’s: Roger

We love to hear how these sessions are benefitting you. We know that our participants are likely to feel or experience some kind of improvement, but to listen to your stories first-hand really boosts the value of our National Lottery funded Nature4Health programme.

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of talking to Roger at the Hope Community Garden. Roger is now retired, but has continued to volunteer his time for many years at various charities and organisations. Additionally, he spends a few hours a week at St. Margaret’s and helps this group continue to revive the space.

Roger has always had a great respect and interest for nature, yet he explained he notices everything, no matter how small, more.

“Even a small insect I now notice, and it’s not till you notice that you really understand how complex and intriguing nature is.”

Roger worked as a gardener for many years in the 1980s, and these skills have certainly come in handy when initially clearing the site. However, the Gardening4All sessions ran by Nina have broadened Roger’s knowledge.

“I’d garden for people, but I only know now how to plant and when to water certain crops. I have really learned a lot, and still continue to.”

Roger first joined these sessions after volunteering at a heritage open day at the church. He met Nina and Jen, the leaders of Hope Community Garden, and immediately said “yes!” to taking part in the 12-week programme.

Like all of our great participants, Roger’s time spent volunteering at St. Margaret’s has had its setbacks. Although, the Hope Community Garden group have definitely managed to make the most of what they could, even in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When things started up again, we were split into two small groups each week. And when the weather was bad and we were allowed indoors, we’d spend the sessions creating flyers and collaborating ideas for the garden. My idea was to create a peace garden.”

The peace garden Roger sought for would feature snowdrops and cherry blossom, as these symbolise hope and peace. Roger wanted to create a space where peace workers would feel appreciated, as well as a space for the local community to enjoy.

Roger’s enthusiasm is reflected onto many of our participants, and it’s refreshing to see a group of friends who are all of varying ages. With this, the groups’ cooperation and friendship have holistically improved each individual – whether it be those going into a new career, or those who are finished their working years but want to feed their passion for nature.

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Where there’s a will, there’s a way: Jen’s Story

Many of our Nature4Health projects have achieved great success, however, these successes don’t come without some difficulties. During the pandemic, a lot has been on hold. This lack of control can be frustrating to say the least, yet this has given us all a chance to really appreciate our time and those we choose to spend it with.

Following a recent visit to St. Margaret’s ‘Hope Community Garden’, Jen, the co-founder of this garden, shared her great story.

Jen had always been interested in growing her own produce but needed a space to do so. Having asked her priest at St. Margaret of Antioch, Jen was given a large, overgrown, and neglected space on the church’s grounds. “To say I was disappointed at first is an understatement. It was too big and too much work” said Jen. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Jen decided to take on the challenge as she was grateful for the space, if not in doubt about its potential at first. She invited some friends of hers to help start up a community garden.

Nina, who now runs the Gardening For All sessions at this site, helped Jen set up a two-year programme thanks to the funding from the National Lottery. Soon word spread and new participants were able to join Jen and clear the site for a much-needed regeneration.

However, at this time the garden was still needing a name. Jen asked her friends and other participants to think of ideas. By chance, one day when clearing old boxes within the church, Jen found a sign that said: ‘Hope Community Garden’. As fate had it, this would now be the name of this upcoming and exciting community project.

Many other loyal participants have helped re-imagine the space. Roger, who is in his 80s, has made great friends with Jen and others at Hope Community Garden, despite their age difference. “It was Roger’s idea to plant snowdrops on the church grounds as these symbolise hope” explained Jen.

Needless to say, Jen certainly is an inspiring individual, whose hard work and resoluteness have not only helped improve one of the city’s greenspaces; but have helped to holistically improve her own and others’ lives. Jen’s story shows how small ideas can create great outcomes.

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