An inspiring collaboration between two community groups - sharing ideas and a passion for gardening
When the Hereford Skatepark opened in 2009, plot-holders at the neighbouring allotment site were wary. 'There were worries that there might be issues with noise, vandalism or antisocial behaviour,' explains Sharon Baugh, a plot-holder at the Holmer Road Allotments. 'We generally kept to ourselves, but there was a feeling that it was them and us.'
A series of break-ins seemed to justify the plot-holders’ worst fears; although these were later found to be unconnected to the skatepark. The episode, however, led Sharon to an idea.
Walking past the site every day she could see how much the young people enjoyed the skate park, but also how bare it was, with no shade or wind breaks. 'The allotments had been invited to get more involved in Hereford in Bloom and I thought perhaps we could combine with the skatepark to form a community project,' she explains. 'Bringing the two groups together might help to improve relations.'
With the support of a few of her fellow plot-holders, she signed up for the RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood scheme and with the donation of several free trees and bamboo plants, she approached the skatepark.'The kids thought it was a great idea and lots wanted to get involved. We set a date for a joint working day and 18 young boarders and seven plot-holders turned up.' explains Sharon.
Plot-holder Colin Prosser was initially sceptical of the project, but was so inspired by working with the young skateboarders that he is now considering becoming a mentor. 'I really enjoyed showing the young people how to use the garden tools for particular jobs. They were interested and keen to learn and I felt I had taught them a new skill,' he explains.
Another plot-holder, Fran Coles admitted that she’d enjoyed the day much more than she’d expected: 'It all took me by surprise as there seemed to be no generation gap during the tasks. No matter what age, we all pulled together as one.'
Skater boarder Elliot Pemberton, 12, said, 'It was really nice to know you were helping our park where we spend all our time. And it was good to work with older people as they had interesting stories to tell. We don't always get the chance to speak to the older generation.' Learning more about gardening has left Elliot keen to do more. 'I do some gardening at home, but now I know how and why. Before it was a chore, now it is my hobby.'
Since that first joint event in 2011 the new group - Digging New Boarders – meets monthly to share projects and ideas. They have applied for funds and hope to plant more fruit trees, perennials and grasses around the skatepark.
'The support received from the RHS generated a desire to ensure the survival of the skatepark, and as well as being a top class venue (it was named best skatepark in England in 2015), it also looks like a place that is cared for, showing respect for the people that use it.’ says trustee Brian Stephens.
Unusually, Hereford Skatepark is run as a charity and community project, with a small group of volunteers raising all the money to build the facility (£523,000 so far) and working to maintain it.