What a year. If COVID has shown us anything it’s the necessity to pull together to support resilience in the community. As many of you know, prior to March, Hands of Hope were running community programmes from our heritage walled kitchen garden in Hawkhurst as well as delivering Helping Hands Lunch Club in Peasmarsh.
To tackle food-related issues as well as isolation and to sustain the longer term feasibility of the site while continuing to support our Service Users and Volunteers, the Trustees decided to redirect our resources by creating an organic market garden, growing in-season produce to support the ever-increasing demand on local food banks and community support groups. With the help of dedicated Volunteers we set spade to soil digging 26 x 100ft beds and erected 2 large polytunnels. With pro bono support from local businesses including Bourne Aggregates, Rother Valley Timber, Network Rail, Vertex, HFF, Rye Hire, Gallagher’s, Rochester Timber, Kaner Olette, Stephen & Anne Rumsey, Brian Goodman Garden Design and Hawdens we managed to complete overdue improvements on site, which permitted open access. Since then we have produced and distributed tonnes of organic food in support of local food banks and community support groups.
At the beginning of July with the support of National Lottery, The Fore, Sussex Community Foundation and Kent Community Foundation, we also launched our new Get Growing programme aimed at early years, schools, families on low income, vulnerable adults, residential care settings as well as communities throughout Rother, Hastings and West Kent with the aim of actively engaging people in growing their own food. To date we have delivered 240 grow kits to 140 settings and will continue to support all of our growers in their endeavours while preparing our development and funding plans for GG – Spring.
Four Seasons at the Walled Garden
Completion of access track & car park
Rotavated market garden & created 26 x 100ft raised beds
Began works on the Compost Loo
Erected two large polytunnels
Sowing and planting began
Water kindly provided by the residents of Hall House
Our new Market Gardener Jan joined us travelling down from London 4 days a week and remained until the end of September
Welcomed new Volunteers to site
Awarded funding from The Fore and Kent Community, Foundation National Lottery and Sussex Community Foundation
Launched “Weed for a Feed” sessions
Jez joined Jan in the garden
New Programme Co-ordinator Anya, recruited for the Get Growing Programme
John our Beekeeper runs sessions with Volunteers
Began first deliveries to Rye Food Bank & HCSG
Launched Get Growing
Bee in Company group produced 200 jars of honey
Welcomed over 100 guests to our first Open Day
with produce stall, apple pressing, flower crowns, bees, food and drink!
Get Growing delivers 240 grow kits to 140 settings including families and schools
Hawkhurst Shedders get power on site
Foodbank initiatives extend & increase
Received Funding from The Card Factory to support Get Growing
Completed the reptile fencing and Brian the ecologist finds 6 Great Crested Newts, so far…
During 2019 we carried out traditional hedge laying on site under the guidance of Phill Phiddell. We had the pleasure of inviting children from Marlborough House School to an educational session as well as inviting local environmental groups and residents to undertake practical hedge laying sessions. We have now secured additional funding to carry out 15 practical hedge laying sessions as part of our Hedge-Hands programme between September and March. If you are interested in participating please contact Mandy at email@example.com
Our Growing Buddies are currently developing two new programmes – one to focus on delivering a growing programme for refugees and the other working alongside West Kent MIND that offers Social Therapeutic gardening for those in rural communities suffering from mental health.
The Hawkhurst Shedders have continued this year, turning wood on the lathe to make dibbers for the garden, installing a new gate for the site and completing the installation of the compost toilet. Additionally, they’ve been busy reptile fencing, laying decking foundations for an office and tool store and creating a dry outdoor space next to the cabin. With the addition of power they are really able to start planning their activities for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021 including wood turning, green woodworking, with plans to invite in local experts for practical sessions. They have a great deal of knowledge to share with those new to woodwork and are eager to welcome newcomers to join the group. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bee in Company
Funded by Investec Bank and started in spring 2019 with the support of Weald Beekeepers Association, we initially began with 2 hives in May 2019 and with the support of a local, experienced beekeeper John Newman and a dedicated team of participants, we now have 4 hives set within the Orchard which will expand in future years to create a large apiary. This is a fantastic project that not only provides environmental benefits to the local landscape but offers educational sessions, free of charge while promoting community cohesion.
Started in November 2018 with funding secured from Sussex Community Foundation and Rye Community Shop, Peasmarsh Monthly Lunch Club provides nutritious food and fantastic entertainment to 52 Members. With the club suspended in March due to COVID we now hope to restart activities at the beginning of the year. We have also secured funding from Kent Community Foundation to start a new monthly lunch club in Hawkhurst. If you are interested in Volunteering for Hawkhurst or Peasmarsh and/or know anyone who could benefit from attending our lunch clubs please get in touch.
Get Growing – provides communities with the tools and support to grow their own food whatever space they have as well as providing fresh organic weekly produce, for those who need it the most.
The aim is to deliver the following benefits: (i) access to fresh vegetables (ii) support in developing new skills regardless of age or ability,(iii) Health benefits associated with fresh air and physical activity. These are all legacy benefits which should last beyond the current crisis even if not every setting continues to grow. “Get Growing” is a good example of innovative collaborative working that is both in line with Kent County Council and the Government’s’ policy “Better Health for All” and provides legacy benefits.
We are now starting our fundraising and development plans for Get Growing – Spring, which sees us continue to support our existing Members as well as registering 300 new participants.
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