Charity inspiration interview - Geddington Brickyard Garden

What started as a dream is now a reality in full swing, thanks to Lynette Litman and her ambition to transform a derelict space into a community project. This month, we talk to Brenda McCraith – a director of Geddington Brickyard Garden CIC – to hear all about this recent venture, the early hurdles they have faced, and what other organisations can learn from this fantastic project.

When did the concept become a reality?

It was earlier this year that my good friend Lynette first thought of the idea when walking her dog in the woods. There was a huge piece of derelict land, but it was looking extremely neglected. The area had been used for various things over the years. In fact, in the 19th century it was actually used as a brickyard – which is why we named it Geddington Brickyard Garden. It was also designed as an area to milk cows but, more recently, it was used by a construction company in Geddington.

The space is a lovely shape, with trees surrounding one half of it. Lynette's idea was to transform it to make it an area for the people of Geddington. She mentioned it to me, I mentioned it to my partner, and – before we knew it – we were speaking to the landowner and his agent. After some negotiations, we received a Certificate of Incorporation as a Community Interest Company (CIC) on 4th July 2014.

What were the main drivers behind the concept?

Really, we want to create a wonderful space for all the community to enjoy. We want it to be an inspiring place where people and nature can thrive, and a big focus for us is sustainability; it needs to be an area that has little impact on the countryside, but where we can create, for example, wildflower meadows and fruit bushes so we can keep reaping the rewards for many years to come. The garden is an opportunity to bring everyone together – people of all ages – in an endeavour that will enrich our village environment.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, we have faced many challenges and hurdles, and we expect to face a lot more along the way! We are only in our early stages, but so far our main challenge has been getting volunteers on board. Everyone has busy lives so, while the project has received much enthusiasm from villagers, they often have other commitments that take priority. A lot of the time, it is just the three of us digging away at the weekends. While we are all avid gardeners, we do find another challenge is finding the money to pay for the equipment we need. For example, we need top soil, paint and tools. We also need a lockable gate to ensure the area is secure.

We made plans to have a launch day at the end of September, where we were hoping to show displays and have a couple of raised beds completed. We were aiming to sign up some small organisations, and also get volunteers on board. However, we faced a serious drawback when the barn (which was unsafe) was delayed in being demolished. It was left too late (early September) so we had to postpone our launch day.

Our other plans include turning a shed into a reception area, developing a water catchment area and re-erecting the barn so that children can complete nature projects undercover. We realise this will all take more time, money and effort – but the thought of the end results keeps us going.

Is there any advice you could offer to other organisations?

What I would say is make sure you plan carefully, but also realise that things take time. We rushed into our open day, for example, and this was slightly unrealistic. Predict the time you think it will take – and then double it!

You also need to ensure your volunteers will do what they say and will remain committed to the cause. As I say, we're in our early stages, so I'm yet to figure out how this is achieved

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