By Anna Scott
We are all, as human beings, interwoven with the natural world. Yet our awareness of this connection can be immensely influenced by where we live. Regeneration Centre’s new project, Sheridan Court Community Garden, will transform an unused green space in Greater Manchester into an urban garden. The vision is of a thriving community hub, shaped by those who wish to use it. In this way, the new project will make visible the deep links connecting people with nature, even in a city environment.
Following a successful funding grant, the new Community Interest Company, Regeneration Centre, is launching its first venture. The Sheridan Court Community Garden Project aims to build a space of environmental and social awareness. Belonging to a group of social housing flats, this unused green space offers great potential for growing nutritious food and for learning about our planet.
This potential of Regeneration Centre’s project was recognised by Lankelly Chase: Greater Manchester System Changers Spaces Fund. The fund wishes to facilitate people to create spaces on their own terms. It is their belief that through investing in people, particularly in marginalised women and underrepresented young people, lasting change can be created. Through working with people, not for people, the fund’s mission is to alter the systems that reinforce and perpetuate patterns of disadvantage in our society. Access to green space is said to be most restricted amongst the most socio-economically deprived groups (1) and as such, Sheridan Court Community Garden seeks to address this imbalance.
Reimagining Sheridan Court
The project will be exploring how to heal, to reimagine and to renew existing systems in this area of Manchester.
This new garden space will be co-created with the existing community and designed for their enjoyment. There will be practical workshops offering the opportunity for residents to get their hands in the soil. Through growing and harvesting food together, people may meet new friends in the area, which in turn will boost levels of cohesion in the Sheridan Court Community.
The project also seeks to reimagine the environment for city dwellers. Nature is more than ‘the great outdoors’ or the far-off places we see on our screens. We do not have to go out in search of nature, it is instead something we can all nurture within our homes. As such, the project will teach the skills to grow food in pots, on balconies and in window boxes. By making nature accessible for the flat’s residents in this way, the project hopes to show that even in smaller, urban spaces, nature can flourish.
Through care and community engagement this new project offers great potential to renew the local area. As well as making the Sheridan Court space safer through increased activity and engagement, the intention is for a new social space to come to fruition. Having access to a safe, supportive space is enriching for any community. The added fact that this hub will be outdoors makes it especially pertinent given our current lock downed lifestyles.
Renewing for the long term
During Covid-19 when, for many, mental health is more fragile, access to nature is key. It is proven by an abundance of research (2) that spending time outside is beneficial for our general well-being. There are recent examples of time spent in nature offered as a prescription for anxiety and depression. Studies have also found that spending time in green spaces boosts levels of happiness, creativity, and memory as well as overall improvements to sleep and stress levels.
There is also something special about growing something yourself; about seeing it go from a tiny seed to your dinner plate. Nurturing even one plant takes great care. Being a part of this process can help to develop a deeper appreciation of the effort it takes to produce good quality, nutritious food. It is often the case that those from the most socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds are the ones most restricted in their access to nutritious food. This is another pattern that the new garden seeks to counter.
In growing food, the impact of our choices on the land become more obvious. As people learn to better care for their local area, this new knowledge may inspire a more conscious, protective relationship with the planet. At this point in our mission to combat climate change, a greater, more widespread awareness is crucial.
It is safe to say, there are multiple and wide-ranging benefits of green spaces. So, in nurturing the land, a community is, at the same time, nurturing itself. Urban living need not detach a person from nature. Let us celebrate this launch of Sheridan Court Community Garden and see it as a reminder that we are all, wherever we live, connected to the natural world.
1, 2 Douglas, K., 2021. Green spaces aren’t just for nature – they boost our mental health too. [online] New Scientist. Available at: <https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24933270-800-green-spaces-arent-just-for-nature-they-boost-our-mental-health-too/> [Accessed 25 March 2021].