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Our Community Garden Project in Rochdale

Rochdale has a long history of doing well in the ‘In bloom’ process overseen by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Indeed we have achieved ‘Gold’ in the Small City category. Our community garden project continues this work.

Nature and Biodiversity Project

St John’s is sited in an area of Rochdale known as Station Square. The area is a mixture of housing, commercial properties, a school, the heritage fire station and of course the church.

As part of the Heritage Project , the team having consulted within the area, found that there was a need for more green space to make it, not only more attractive to visitors and residents alike but to increase biodiversity in the area. The garden reflects the aspiration to make the church and its heritage more open and welcoming to everyone.

At the start of the project the church was surrounded by a number of potential areas of varying sizes. A perennial border at the front of the church directly opposite the Fire Station was mentioned during our consultation as an attractive addition to the area and whilst this is the case more could be done with the other spaces around the church.

The entrance to the car park and grassed area, however, was described by a consultant, as ‘very foreboding’ and not at all welcoming. The expert view was that the trees cut out light to all areas of the church and most of the woodland. It was recommended that a number of trees be removed or pruned to create a sustainable resource for the children at the local primary school and to allow the creation of a relaxing environment for parishioners and the local and wider community.

rochdale community garden-tree

Following the consultant’s recommendations and the outcomes of the consultation, the project will work to offer a nature and biodiversity project that will improve the welcome offer to the community.  The grounds around St John’s have the potential to make the approach and the welcome to St John’s more attractive. The plans include the effective management of the large trees that create a foreboding effect at the entrance but with management and the fostering of biodiversity will, according to our scheme, enhance the heritage of the church.

Working with St John’s Primary School, one of our partners, and our team of volunteers, we will create a new garden space for the whole community. As part of our natural heritage project, we will also install bug and bee hotels which will help insects/pollinators. Drawing on the Byzantine influence of the church, we will grow tulips, snowdrops and crocuses, which are all native to Turkey.

A group of volunteers have already improved many areas around the church, changing a weed infested overgrown area to lawn with perennial planting plan. Work has been started on other spaces and indeed the planters, created from sustainable recycled materials have achieved awards from the RHS.  Work on the two areas mainly set to trees is just starting; permissions to prune or reduce the sizes of the trees is awaited from the local council.

We have started working on the improvements needed to create a welcome garden with an inviting view of the church. We aim to have a relaxed seating area, nature nurtured by the schoolchildren and a colourful and well-tended garden area.   All this will happen, with the continued support of the school and volunteers, providing a fitting legacy and introduction to the heritage of St John’s. The aspiration for this part of the project is that the gardens become a focus for the local community as a place with access for quiet reflection and enjoyment of the green area in the heart of a mainly built up area.

The garden will be available to visitors whenever the church is open.

Our garden Project

Rochdale has a long history of doing well in the ‘In bloom’ process overseen by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Indeed for the last two years the town achieved ‘Gold’ in the Small City category.

This achievement is made possible by the success of many entries in a category named ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’. For the first time, St John’s Church was invited to enter this category in 2022. Despite the church being covered in scaffolding and building paraphernalia, we accepted the challenge.

In May 2022 a group of volunteers from across our parish came together to plan the approach.

There is a requirement to achieve success in three areas: community involvement, sustainability and biodiversity and horticulture.

At St John’s it was agreed to make new planters with flowers and designs representing each nationality – in our parish community twelve in all.  Many of the parishioners from the individual countries either advised, planned or created their own planters.

We used reclaimed wood, sourced materials from recycling websites, installed a water butt, sieved old soil to bulk out the compost, laid a new lawn and tidied up much of the existing garden areas. We started developing two new areas of garden, one designated a peace garden and one a remembrance garden.

In August 2022 RHS judges came to St John’s to assess our work.

In October representatives of the team went to the northwest awards ceremony at Bolton football stadium.

We were overwhelmed to be awarded a level 5 (outstanding). This is a fabulous achievement and due to the hard work of fourteen parish volunteers.

Amazingly, and with an enormous amount of hard work, we repeated this success in 2023 and were awarded level 5 outstanding once more.

The team turned out in all weathers and worked hard to ensure that the environment of St John the Baptist provides an attractive setting for parishioners and visitors.

If you would like to be involved in this rewarding community project, just contact and she will tell you more about the project.

Christine Mathewson, February 2024

Christine community garden St John the Baptist church
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