Written by Lisa Vallente-Osborne, an author and bodywork practitioner.

As the first Covid lockdown saw most retreat to their homes, a new development at St Joseph’s Church in Skerton, Lancaster began to emerge. When his workload and daily rhythms changed, Father Philip began clearing an area of wasteland at the back of the church and ordered the seed to sow a grassland.

The members of our small family bubble dug over the ground. As the railway sleepers arrived to build raised beds; the grass seed was returned in favour of a vegetable garden, a plot with a fruiting terrace, and three pre-loved recycled greenhouses.

As the church reopened and people returned to the building, they were welcomed to a new garden. The space also provided a Covid-safe option for meeting. The garden’s produce was offered to parishioners for donations, with the proceeds going towards funding the next year’s planting.

Throughout the Covid lockdowns, as the restrictions allowed, volunteers emerged to help tend our little Eden. The space has rapidly become a little haven where people come to rest, to work and to play, reconnecting with nature and enjoying the outdoor space.

Local builders became aware of the project and they continue to donate any excess from their trade, from stone to planks. We even have a local lady who supplies pallets. These have been used to build fencing, benches and various planters. A local supplier brings locally sourced, peat-free compost, and a very important contribution comes from our local horse poop lady, who provides her ‘donations’ on a regular basis! My family has also brought bees to the site.

Our community plot borders St Joseph’s primary school. The school’s children have watched with awe as ‘the monsters’ (pumpkins) grew by the fence, and this year we have already hosted the Year 2 class.

Our garden is also on the hedgehog preservation map. We have opened hedgehog highways between us and the school and have provided various shelters for wildlife. Our new pond is thriving with tadpoles, and the garden hasn’t seen so many different birds and all their little chicks in quite some time!

So, the garden is predominantly an allotment. But the space is used as a safe haven by so many – from parishioners who grab a coffee and sit with their children after a weekday mass to refugee families who meet up to reconnect.

For more information about St. Joseph’s Church, visit stjosephs-lancaster.co.uk

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