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March 3, 2010

Take the fences down

One of the less appealing features of many allotment sites around the country is the high fencing and security measures designed to keep everyone else out.  Taking a different path is Urban Roots – a community based gardening project in Glasgow’s Toryglen area.  Working in various sites throughout the area, Urban Roots adopt a completely open doors approach. No fences, no security cameras with an open invitation to all and sundry to help out if they can and pick what they want.  Surprise, surprise – no vandalism

Urban Roots :

Urban Roots is a community led organisation in Toryglen, Glasgow.  It is committed to working with local people on projects that improve the environment, health and nutrition work and environmental arts.

Their volunteer teams take on lots of different projects such as transforming derelict or unused green spaces into thriving, blossoming community gardens where they grow herbs and vegetables, fruit and flowers. Not only does this make the area look more attractive, it also helps to create more used, social and safe places and community resources.

They  also work closely with the schools to help them develop their eco-schools programmes and they run kids clubs such as after school or during the summer holidays. Children are also involved in the community gardens, helping to plant flowers and grow vegetables.

Their long term aims are to build a new community resource using sustainable eco-build methods and renewable technologies where people can share skills and knowledge and to use an educational resource. They have a long term vision of developing urban agriculture across Glasgow and local food growing based on permaculture methods, in partnership with other similar organisations.

They run a wide range of projects in the Toryglen area, from action teams and training opportunities to educational work. Project work includes the Toryglen Gardening Club; Malls Mire Conservation Volunteers; Eco-schools; Kidz Clubs; Fruit Barra and Climate Change Education. Most of the projects listed below are volunteer opportunities.

Toryglen Community Gardeners
Every Tuesday and Wednesday a team of volunteers work together around Toryglen maintaining and developing 5 local community gardens. The group also helps out with school grounds and nursery gardens, building raised beds and keeping spaces tidy.

Because of the large amount of community involvement they have had very little vandalism, and most of their gardens are blooming and beautiful. They only use organic methods in the gardens and apply permaculture principles throughout. One of the aims of the project is to grow as much food as possible which they will then redistribute back into the community via their ‘Fruit Barra’ project.

We also hope to supply a new community cafe in the area with fresh salads and herbs, grown by local community gardening volunteers.  

Malls Mire Conservation Volunteers

Malls Mire Community Nature Reserve is a site of importance for nature conservation that is bordered by Toryglen, Rutherglen and the railway line. The conservation volunteers work every Thursday on the site, learning a range of conservation skills and working as a team.

They work closely with the local primary schools, which includes Toryglen Primary, St Brigids Primary and Hampden Primary. All schools are signed up to the eco-schools awards programme and they have been helping them with their journey. Topics covered include waste, recycling and energy use as well as biodiversity and improvements to the school playgrounds.
Kidz Clubs
They operate several kids and youth activities in the area where they create spaces for young people to learn about the environment in a safe and friendly atmosphere. Groups meet at the Toryglen Community Halls where they are developing a children’s garden, and at the Geoff Shaw Centre where they work with Toryglen After School Service. They have made films about rubbish, carried out clean-ups, grown food and much more. The children who attend the group range from 5 to 12.

Fruit Barra (or Food Coop)
In Toryglen there is very little access to fruit and vegetables. Although local shops sell some produce the quality is not great and the prices are high. In order to address accessibility and affordability they have set up a ‘Fruit Barra’, selling low-cost, fresh fruit and veg in a community venue once a week. They will also take orders from groups and individuals which they drop off at a convenient location for collection. The Fruit Barra takes place on a Wednesday at the Toryglen Church of Scotland.
Climate Change Education
They have put together a programme of workshops for community groups and adults that take a look at some of the facts around Climate Change, some of the causes and effects, and what they can do about it.

They are carrying out research locally to establish the collective Carbon Footprint of Toryglen, and they will be working with local businesses and other agencies to develop a sustainable development action plan

Find out more about URBAN ROOTS