What’s happening with the garden then?

The original village hub project started as an attempt to renovate the old cost-cutter building on the sea-front, then morphed into an ambitious scheme to put a new community-run facility on the old rifle club site at the entrance to the village. After a failed funding application for that facility, the group decided to set it’s sights on a more realistic, more grounded way to make use of that wonderful space: a community garden.

The community garden meets many of the needs of our community expressed in the research we did for the hub project, and echoed in the community action plan. Our community wants more ways to socialise with other people we might not bump into otherwise. Our community wants to do something constructive together, to make things, grow things, and learn together. If we get the funding for a poly tunnel, there will even be somewhere you can hide from the rain and the midges and get a cup of coffee.

As you’ll have seen, the site has been being carved up by the diggers working on the path project. But there is a plan! Tim has kindly volunteered and worked hard to get and respond to feedback from lots of people.

The general idea is to have something for everyone on the site: a wildlife nature garden towards the entrance, an orchard and woodland area, some lawns and picnic or barbecue space, then towards the back, an area of raised beds for growing fruit and vegetables. There’s even a stage for outdoor performances under the crags, which doubles as a climbing wall. The old curling rink will be left largely un-touched at this stage except for some more cleaning up, leaving our options open for the future.

We’re trying to keep the plans modest so that they affordable and achievable.

We have some trees already on their way, donated by the woodland trust, and some modest funds already donated by Tesco which will help cover the costs of the boring stuff like drainage on the site and repairs to the shed. We have funding applications in that will mean we’re able to buy the other plants on Tim’s design, tools and materials as well as the much-requested poly tunnel, if they come through.

The main thing we’re going to need is people! We had a good turn-out for the open evening we ran in the summer, and 12 people so far have signed up to say they’d like to be part of the gardening group. We’re currently thinking we’ll run the growing area like an allotment system, with people paying a small fee to rent a raised bed in the poly tunnel or in a deer-fenced outdoor area which will go towards the running costs of the garden. Of course we’ll also need volunteers to set up and maintain the other areas of the garden too, so please let us know if you’re interested in taking part.

I’d love to hear your feedback either way. It can be a lonely job running these kinds of projects, and every word of encouragement means a lot.

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Do you want to be a community gardener?

We’re looking for volunteers who would like to be part of our community garden.

Please step forward if you would like to either:

– take one or more raised beds in the fruit & veg growing area
– help create and maintain the decorative and recreational parts of the garden

You don’t need any gardening experience, just a willingness to get your hands dirty and have some fun.

Please sign up here.

Field trip to Ron Mara, Kintyre

Well I’m excited.

We just got back from a day-trip to see Ed and Carina Tyler of RonMara, Kintyre. Seven years ago they bought a farmer’s field on the west-facing coast of the Kintyre peninsula. Today they have a thriving garden brimming with edible plants.

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Ed has been teaching ecology and permaculture for many years, and set up urban community gardens in Newcastle before moving to Tarbert where he was involved in various projects like the Tarbet Community Garden, Entire Kintyre Orchard and Big Green Tarbert.

It was a great inspiration to see what they’ve achieved on this beautiful wind-battered site. Here’s a random selection of some of the things I learned today:

  • Pine plantations cause acidity in the soil. Seaweed or Biochar, which can be made from Rhododendron and other waste wood, creates alkaline to balance this out.
  • Alder, Willow and Birch form the “backbone” of a garden and are the things to plant first. They grow fast and strong, creating shelter. Alder fixes nitrogen in the soil and set up mycorrhizal networks in the soil that other plants will need to thrive.
  • The council will provide free testing for lead (which we may have on our site from the old use as a rifle range)
  • Royal Horticultural Society and Plants for a future have great databases of plants.
  • Artichokes are “easy” to grow here in Scotland. Fennel also seemed to be doing well.
  • You can easily make your own liquid plant feed:
    • Get seaweed and / or nettles and / or comfrey in a bucket.
    • Add some water
    • Mash it up a bit with your boot
    • Wait a couple of weeks
    • The solids can go onto your compost heap, and the liquid is ready to dilute 10:1 and use to feed your tomatoes etc.
    • You could make this and sell it!
  • A model for garden creating is SADIE: Survey -> Analysis -> Design -> Implementation -> Evaluation
  • Permaculture Design Course (PDC) takes six weekends over six months. They run in Glasgow.
  • Graham Bell is a good supplier of plants, and will offer advice.
  • Rachel Bailey, a former apprentice of Ed’s based in Helensburgh, would be able to offer us paid consulting in permaculture details of our garden.

We showed Ed and Carina our plans for the garden and they were really encouraging. We’re looking forward to organising some more activity days and putting a plan into action.

We have joined the Community Trust

Our group is now a sub-group of the Lochgoil Community Trust. This move from previously being an independently constituted group, might seem like a boring detail, but we’re excited to be working with the Trust’s support. We think the best way to make things happen is by working together.

Green Shoots: Why the Hub starts with a garden

Over the coming weeks and months you’re going to start to see some changes at the entrance to the village. The hub team, after lots of hard work and setbacks are finally going to start making some visible progress. I’m writing to let you know what’s happening next, how this fits into the bigger plan, and what you can do to help.

Our Hub team’s mission has always been to “Establish a new hub development at the entrance the village for the benefit of everyone who lives, works and plays in Lochgoilhead. Our hub will grow food, grow businesses and grow our community by providing an inspiring setting for conversation, commerce and cake.”

We started out tackling this mission with a bold attempt to raise money from the Big Lottery. We envisioned a fantastic new building, designed and built with the latest eco-friendly techniques, with space for a cafe, shop and work units. A space that the community could be proud to call our own.

We worked hard to make this vision a reality, and it was a long slog of over two years of funding applications, feasibility studies, interview panels, community consultations and more funding applications before they finally told us they had other projects they deemed more worthy. We were disappointed but vowed not to give up.

As we discussed what to do next, and how to make best use of the tremendous gift of the old rifle club ground, it became clear that we needed to start with a phased approach. We don’t intend on  letting go of that vision, but we want to work towards it in steps that are more manageable and that start to give our community real benefits today.

We know that people miss the sociability of the old costcutter shop, and that the last village action plan showed the desire for a cafe and shop. So why are we starting with a community garden?

The community garden

The hub team’s current focus is to set up 10 raised-bed gardening plots on the old rifle club ground, this will involve surveying and digging drainage channels to the site, improving access and signage, clearing the riverbank and fixing the old curling club cabin, ready to start growing as soon as possible. We’re also going to set up a composting scheme. We’ve managed to persuade the forestry commission to donate the wood for building the beds, and we’re organising a series of activity days.

We’ll be making plots available to rent in the manner of Kilfinnan Community Forest’s Kyles Allotment Group (http://www.kilfinancommunityforest.co.uk/gogreen-kag.php) and other similar schemes. All money raised will go back into running and expanding the garden. We’re organising a research trip to visit Kilfinan on 27th January 2018. Please contact team@goilhub.com to sign up for a place.

Our hope is that the hub garden can provide a catalyst to bring together everyone who shares our belief that the future of this planet lies in communities like ours taking action to increase our self-sufficiency. The garden will be a friendly, welcoming place that gives people another venue to socialise in. We’re looking forward to cultivating plans and schemes as well as yummy veggies.

Plans and ambitions

Starting small with a few raised beds doesn’t mean we’re not ambitious. We know there is still demand for work units both for creative makers and digital nomads. We know people would still like somewhere to get a decent cup of coffee and some home-made cake.

Once the community garden is established and up and running, we’d like to expand it to provide some indoor growing space. We have a greenhouse in storage that was kindly donated by Marion and Rory McCune, and would love to erect that next summer.

We believe that with some modest funding, the old curling shed can be refitted and extended to provide cafe and shop space. In the meantime we’ll investigate using shipping containers to provide commercial space for rent.

Although we’ll be evolving the site as time and budget allows, our team architect Anna Wynne has an overall plan for how everything fits together and we’ll all work hard to make sure the site looks tidy and makes a great statement about our community.

There are also other options within the village that could be developed to meet some of these same needs. Over the summer a property on the sea-front came onto the market which we thought had the potential to be developed into a community cafe and shop. We made a funding application to the Scottish Land which was rejected but they did leave the door open for a re-application. We’re a small team, most of us with young families and busy lives, and we lack the capacity to work on many different fronts at once. If you’re interested in helping with the funding application and business planning paperwork needed to make the cafe a reality, please get in touch.

Get in touch

We’d love your help with:

  • Researching and making funding applications
  • Physical work on the garden and site
  • Sourcing site materials
  • Sharing gardening expertise

Please get in touch with team@goilhub.com if you’d like to rent one of the raised beds, help out, or just to give us your support and encouragement.

Date for your diary:

  • Research trip to Kilfinan community forest on 27th January 2018. Sign up for a place by emailing team@goilhub.com