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Growing in Riverside


The volunteers celebrate with their award

The volunteers celebrate with their award

For Sam Holt and his army of volunteers at Riverside Community Garden, last Wednesday was a landmark day as they were awarded the best community growing project at the Keep Wales Tidy awards.

The garden, which will celebrate its tenth anniversary in October, brings together a vibrant cross-section of Cardiff’s community to tend the vast range of growing projects on the site.

Mr Holt said it was recognition of the hard work everyone had put in.

“Sometimes I think I work 10 days a week here,” he said.

“People here come with their own problems and with their own lives so it makes me proud to have acknowledgement from Keep Wales Tidy and John Lewis, who sponsored the award.”

For Dipak Parekh the garden is a dream come true. He started volunteering last summer and has found the garden has helped him in ways he hadn’t even imagined.

“I started coming here to source produce because I’d developed some recipes to help me with my pain control,” he said.

“I was taking maybe 30 to 40 tablets a day before I came because I’m in constant pain from a severely inerted disk.

“I found some juices made from vegetables and herbs and fruits that were helping my pain tolerance levels and I’ve been able to stop my medication completely.”

Like many people who help out at the garden Mr Parekh also spoke of how it is a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

“I’ve suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain syndrome, anxiety and depression and it’s helped me on all of those fronts,” he said.

“It’s a wonderful stress free environment. People are very like minded. They come to get out of the house and stop bouncing off the walls.”

The garden also runs a number of community engagement and development events where people can come along and learn about growing.

“We’ve got a lot of people coming down now who realise it’s a great place to bring children,” Mr Holt said.

“It’s safe and it’s friendly and they can learn a lot when they’re here.

“During the day we have people who want to come along for any length of time between half an hour and the whole day. I’ll give them tasks to do that let them integrate with the group and which they’ll enjoy.”

Mr Parekh feels the open and diverse atmosphere of the garden is why it is so popular and what makes him keep coming back.

“Before I came I knew it was going to be a diverse community, but I didn’t’ realise quite how diverse,” he said.

“It’s a free atmosphere with nice people and we get free reign to an extent. Sam guides us and we all pitch in, everything is tailored to our needs.”

Mr Holt is positive about the future of the garden, which is currently funded by an 18 month grant from the People’s Heath Trust.

“We always put in some of our extra time when we’re not working here to go that extra mile for the community,” he said.

“But there’s time to relax too, we drink a lot of tea. Without tea and biscuits you don’t have volunteers.” .