Stretford Gardening Club celebrates 60 years of Britain in Bloom

  • Stretford Public Hall’s own green space, the ‘pocket park’
  • 60th birthday celebration of the RHS ‘Britain in Bloom’ initiative
  • Volunteering for local green spaces during the summer

Stretford Gardening Club celebrates 60 years of the RHS ‘Britain in Bloom’ initiative championing green spaces in urban and community areas. 

In their ‘pocket park’ located next to Stretford Public Hall, local councillors Tom Ross and Jane Slater, volunteers from Longford Park and Stretford in Bloom attended a nationwide celebration of community gardening. 

From left to right: Jane Slater and Tom Ross councillors for Stretford and Humphrey Park, Brenda, Sue and Mags from Stretford in Bloom

The park, started around lockdown in 2020, has had a full transformation from disrepair to an “amazing” community space. 

Now, in its fourth year,  the Friends of Stretford Public Hall are keen to welcome new volunteers before the beginning of summer. 

Growing a brighter future

The Friends of Stretford Public Hall have owned the building since a community asset transfer in 2015. Shortly after, Sue Simpkins started to maintain the raised beds at the entrance of the hall, with the gardening group started just before lockdown. Stretford Gardening Club intended to improve the garden that had been left neglected by the previous owners of the Hall. 

Sue Simpkins and the ‘Pocket Park’

Sue says the garden was in disrepair, but she could see the potential. “When we took this over, we went and had a look at all these plants. Some of them have died but most were still alive, amazingly.”

The plants have been grown from seed on site, and others have been donated from local gardens, with the RHS donating plants to the garden last year. 

Receiving funding from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, they carried out the landscaping to the site, installing a seating area with benches and planting fruit trees. 

Next to the underpass connecting the A5145 and the A56, the pocket garden sinks down from the main road next to Stretford Public Hall to the pedestrian crossing. “People passing by always wave to us and say oh, it’s looking lovely. Thanks very much. So people do appreciate it.”

“They don’t mess about with it. It doesn’t get vandalised or damaged in any way. We do get a bit of litter at times. No, I think people do really appreciate it.”

The impact of community gardening

Brenda joined the gardening club whilst she was volunteering at Dunham Massey Hall’s gardens. “You meet people that you wouldn’t necessarily in your life, because you were brought together by a common goal.” 

Brenda with one of the ‘Pocket Park’s’ fruit trees

She says being a part of the Stretford Public Hall community is part of the reason she attends the gardening club: “So we do a couple of hours of gardening in the morning. And then we go inside and we sit back while the other volunteers in the community because it’s like a Tuesday welcoming day, and it’s really friendly and nice.”

In the last two years, the garden was awarded a Level 4 ‘Thriving’ twice in the RHS ‘Its Your Neighbourhood Awards’, which is a campaign for local projects or groups to improve existing urban or green areas. The awards are judged on community participation, environmental responsibility and gardening achievement in five levels from ‘Establishing’ to ‘Outstanding’.

‘Britain in Bloom’ has been organised by the Royal Horticultural Society since 2002 -previously by the British Tourist Board- and  has encouraged over 1600 communities to clean up and green their local areas.