As 2021 draws to a close, our team members reflect on the successes, challenges and highlights of our projects over the last year, and discuss what they are looking forward to in 2022.
Greig Robertson, Director
Despite the pandemic, SWEE has made great progress in 2021, and things bode well for 2022. The community gardens have played an important role throughout the past two years, by providing a place that people can spend time to get out of the house and safely be around other people. They have also hosted a series of community picnics when proper community meals were not an option.
We are also pleased to see the continued progress in our goals to support residents in both the Calders and Murrayburn & Hailesland areas, in their endeavour to establish new community centres at the Sighthill Primary Janitor’s House, and on the Greenway between Murrayburn & Hailesland respectively. In 2022 we will see two applications go into the Scottish Land Fund to further progress those projects.
After a difficult and isolating start to the year due to the pandemic, it was great to be able to bring the members of the Murrayburn & Hailesland community together again in the latter half of the year through our Community Picnics. Through Community Chef Tona Sato’s innovative and beautifully presented meals, we were able to give meaning to the hard work that our gardeners put in to growing their produce, showcase the rewards and satisfaction to be had through the field to fork process, and demonstrate how it can bring people together in a shared space. It was wonderful to see everyone back together, and we were incredibly lucky with the weather too. It has also been fantastic to invite guests such as PHD student May East into the garden, to allow members of the community to share their experiences of the area.
In partnership with The Green Team Edinburgh and Lothians, and funded by the Murrayburn and Hailesland Community Park Association, another highlight has been restarting the Natural Play Sessions after an extended hiatus due to the pandemic, and subsequently seeing local children enjoying their natural surroundings, which I am looking forward to continuing in 2022, with the hope of expanding the sessions across other areas of Wester Hailes. It has also been insightful and exciting to be part of the regeneration work and local place planning through the Wester Hailes Community Trust and recently established Wester Hailes Local Place Plan Steering Group, as it is a privilege to be able to both support local residents to voice their aspirations for the area, and further regeneration plans around the Murrayburn and Hailesland Community Garden.
Finally, it has been a real highlight to work with Inclusion Scotland this year, and through their Internship Programme, bring our Social Media and Communications Intern, Shannon Currie, onto our team. She has been working to ensure that the local community, other organisations and stakeholders can stay up to date with our activities, successes and challenges over the latter half of 2021, and it has been a positive experience for everyone involved that has aided us in thinking about how our various activities can be more accessible, and one that we would encourage other organisations to explore. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with her as an employee in 2022.
In 2022, I am especially looking forward to continuing to support the Calder’s Residents Association through Stage Two of their endeavour to carry out a Community Asset Transfer of the former Janitor’s House into a Community Hub.
A real highlight of 2021 has been seeing the gardeners take time out to sit down and share something to eat or drink together in the garden. The most obvious examples of this were the community picnics that we hosted throughout the summer and autumn months, however it was also great to see this extend into other moments initiated by the gardeners themselves, such as the delicious currant cordial that Maura, one of the gardeners, made with currants harvested the previous day. Another definite success was the quantity and quality of produce that we harvested from the garden. Apart from providing our gardeners and fellow residents of Murrayburn & Hailesland with fresh vegetables, we also provided regular donations to the Tuesday afternoon food pantry at Holy Trinity Church, and dropped off regular harvests to both Tona, and Stacey from Wester Hailes Eats Together, who subsequently turned the produce into meals for the community.
The highlight in the Calders garden has been the gradual increase in participation across the year, with a team now totalling 17, and the re-establishment of a management committee. The garden was held together by a few individuals for a few years pre-pandemic, so it is great to now see it on a firmer footing. There has also been plenty of really great produce grown. If I had to pick one moment that I particularly loved, it was the frequent requests from our gardeners to pass plums from our plum trees to pupils on the other side of the fence at one of our partner schools, Sighthill Primary.
The main highlights for Broomhouse were our summer barbecue, and the series of weekly produce stalls that we ran throughout the summer. Both were big successes. For the barbecue the gardeners produced 14 dishes, which included side dishes, salads and desserts, each of which were made using the garden’s produce, with a total of 23 different vegetables used. It was a delectable feast given the number of talented cooks we have among the team! The produce stalls were also a great success, and it was particularly nice to receive instant feedback on the quality of our produce. Over the course of a few weeks we built up quite a following in Broomhouse with many locals returning each week.
I feel that the biggest success this year has been our resilience, adaptability and continued dedication in supporting the Wester Hailes community. It was wonderful to introduce our Community Picnics at the Murrayburn and Hailesland Community Garden during the summertime. It gave us a chance to utilise the garden more, and bring people together again after long periods of isolation to share food and enjoy the abundance of delicious produce harvested from the garden. In 2022 I hope that we are able to continue to bring people in the community together to enjoy and experience food, expand and develop upon our partnerships with the other projects, recruit more volunteers, and continue to work towards creating a stronger, more engaged, inclusive and resilient community in Wester Hailes.
At the School Farm, despite a late start we have managed to cram in a great variety of exciting activities with the P6 and P7 children. Over the winter term we have done classes such as seed collection and sorting; milling our wheat and making flat breads; Dig for Victory; bed preparation; insect identification and harvesting all parts of the crop. As we move into 2022 and start the Farm again in Spring, we hope to be able to leap into a new growing year with a well-prepared farm. After a slow start during 2021 due to the pandemic, the Farm is now back in tip-top condition and ready for a bumper harvest next year!
Patrick Dunne, Leith Community Growers Project Lead Our biggest success was undoubtedly our partnership with Out of The Blue, that allowed us to create a space for our activities at the Meanwhile Site on Leith Walk. The Meanwhile Garden provided us with the opportunity to meet weekly during the summer which created a strong group with regular activities. It was the site of our 100Planters project with Edinburgh Tool Library, the location for the Heathers biodiversity study – during which we were able to attract all sorts of bees and birds to a previously dead site with little to no wildlife, and it was also the site of our tiny Wheatfield. This was not only my personal pride and joy, but fostered real community engagement, especially during harvesting. We were also lucky to have guest speakers from Dough Club, as well as Tara and Lindsay from Scotland the Bread, which each inspired lots of ideas as to how we can create growing spaces and foster community engagement in a very small area.
Other Team Interviews…