Englefield’s Five A Day Market Garden is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year – and an ever-blossoming impact in the West Berkshire community.
With the seeds of the project sown in 2009, the Five A Day Market Garden is a not-for-profit community initiative involving a team of around 25 volunteers who maintain the garden and run community education projects, eco-craft courses and garden tours.
Now in its third season and supported by a Berkshire Community Foundation grant, the garden’s Thyme Together project for over-60s is reaching more people in the community than ever, including those with dementia and mental health needs who derive huge benefits and pleasure from the group.
New members are always welcome to the weekly, informal, gardening sessions, taking place on Thursdays, 1pm – 3pm, and include gardening, crafts, tea, cake and “happy chat”.
The garden continues to welcome school and community groups. This spring, organic children’s food company Ella’s Kitchen is sponsoring visits for local school children, while Beaver and Brownie groups are looking forward to completing their gardening badges this summer. The garden is also hosting a team from Winnersh software company, Sage.
Volunteers are being sought to help run a weekly session for adult learners with autism from Prior’s Court residential school and other local providers. This spring the sessions, funded by West Berkshire Council, are taking place on Wednesday mornings.
Garden committee secretary, Wendy Cadman, said: “These new sessions started in March and are proving immensely valuable to the young adults, as well as being hugely rewarding for the volunteers. We would like to hear from anyone interested in finding out more.”
Such is the project’s potential to support more vulnerable and isolated members of the community and benefit people with mental health issues, Five A Day has become part of the Reading Gardens for Health and Wellbeing Network, launching in September.
This year, the garden is benefiting from an upgrade in its infrastructure, aided by a team from volunteer environmental group, Conserving Reading on Wednesdays (CROW).
Currently, the team is busy planting, continuing to increase its yield of both fruit, vegetables and cut flowers, which this year include roses, hollyhocks, lupins and sweet peas. The garden’s first crop, strawberries and broad beans, will be sold at Englefield Garden Centre as well as from the market garden itself, which is open to the public on Wednesday and Friday mornings.
Produce, including flower posies and jam made with fruit from the garden, will also be sold at Five A Day’s annual open day on Saturday, July 13th, 1.30pm – 4.30pm. The occasion offers the opportunity for people to visit the beautiful two-acre garden, located in the heart of the village and leased to the group by the Englefield Estate, and find out more about its many social enterprise projects. There will also be various family-orientated activities including pond dipping and wildlife games taking place and refreshments. Donations are welcome to support the market garden’s courses which promote inclusion and help tackle social isolation.
“We are busier than ever in the garden, which is looking wonderful,” said group chair, Wendy Tobitt. “Five a Day has grown from a brilliant idea into the beautiful garden we enjoy today, thanks to the amazing efforts of hundreds of volunteers over the last 10 years.
“The garden now has large beds for cut flowers, vegetables and fruit. I remember when this was Bill Partridge’s garden, and Jez Taylor had his veg growing enterprise here in the heart of Englefield. It’s wonderful to keep the garden growing with schoolchildren coming to learn how to grow their own vegetables and flowers.”