The Groundwork project aimed to create a nature trail around the farm and awaken curiosity in our local wildlife, spark an interest in plants for pleasure and plants we can eat, and provide a secure and stimulating haven in which children can play and explore the natural environment. The project focused on four areas of the City Farm.
The community gardens and allotments border and new nature trail
The undergrowth around the perimeter fence of the community gardens and allotments was cleared; some trees were felled, and some crown-lifted. This was done to introduce more sunlight to the community gardens and allotments by removing non-native weeds, self-seeded shrubs and trees to create an avenue of trees overhanging the new nature trail. Native plants, large boulders and logs now sit beneath the trees creating an attractive border.
The start of the nature trail is the warm golden coloured path that now wends its way around the border of the gardens and allotments. It has two entrances, one opposite the farm yard beneath the willow arbour, and the other opposite the pond wildlife reserve next to the compost area. There are passing places for wheelchairs and buggies to use. The native hawthorn hedge whips planted along the fence-line and growing to provide a natural barrier between the gardens and roads running alongside it.
Mini totem poles (echoes of the large totem pole found in one of our pastures) were installed to act as way markers, guiding visitors along the nature trail that extends to the border of the City Farm at Clarke Street. These were designed by local children from the Woodcraft Folk and carved by volunteers from our Green Woodwork Group. Sensory and tactile plants, bird and bat boxes, catch the eye along the trail, and there are places to sit and enjoy the natural environment.
Community picnic and play area
At the centre of the community gardens and allotments near the raised pond we created a new garden area where people can enjoy the sun or rest in the dappled shade. It’s a space where people can meet, eat, and relax together and children can explore nature through play. Espalier apple trees and attractive sensory plants and herbs encircle the space. New garden picnic furniture especially designed for us and hand crafted in oak, plus wildlife habitats such as bird baths and nesting boxes, and play features made of natural materials complete the picture.
The pond wildlife reserve
At the far end of the golden garden path the trail leads across the main thoroughfare into the secluded pond wildlife reserve. Here, some of the tree branches overhanging the pond were reduced to help with the problem of leaf debris in the water, although the area remains naturally shaded and cool.
More wildlife habitats to provide homes for wildlife complement the existing ‘bug hotel’, and seasonal woodland flowers and shrubs adorn the flower-beds. The nursery playground is now screened by a bamboo fence that forms a natural boundary between the two areas but there are peep holes cut through the bamboo so that the children can still see through into the reserve.
The pond is now planted with lilies, bordered with plants and a pond-viewing platform sits in the centre of the log fence that surrounds it. A small waterfall that has been installed to keep the pond water clear and oxygenate plants, gurgles softly in the background. An information board telling people about pond-life lies to the right of the pond, and a curvy carved bench situated amongst the trees provides a place to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Wild Woodland Area
From the wildlife reserve, take the path marked by the way-markers around the animal pastures to the woodland behind them bordering Clarke Street. The scrub between the palisade fencing and wood was cleared to make way for a wood-chip path bordered with logs, leading to a seating area. Hawthorn whips are growing to screen the space from the road outside. Carved woodland beasties are dotted here and there and bird habitats perch the trees. It’s a place where people can relax, soak up the atmosphere and watch children explore and play amongst the trees.
The Big Lottery Community Spaces Groundwork project could not have succeeded without contributions from many people and organisations. Please see our Role of Thanks for details.