National awards mark a hat-trick of horticulture

Stephen Brunning in the transformed garden at the MS Research and Relief Fund property in Morpeth which was done with help from staff and volunteers.
Stephen Brunning in the transformed garden at the MS Research and Relief Fund property in Morpeth which was done with help from staff and volunteers.

A TRIO of projects to brighten up gardens across Morpeth have received national accolades.

Among the recipients of the Royal Horticultural Society’s It’s Your Neighbourhood awards were the New Life Christian Centre, MS Research and Relief Fund and Tommy’s Field Allotment Association.

The campaign has five levels of achievement and all three have been given Developing awards, the third highest honour, for their first-time entries.

An abandoned allotment in Tommy’s Field has been transformed into a community garden, with raised beds and seating.

It includes space for growing food, areas to teach allotment skills, sensory plants, wildflowers and wildlife-friendly areas to increase the biodiversity of the site.

The plot was difficult to garden because of the overhanging trees from the riverside, but the association was keen to see the land put to good use.

It worked with Morpeth Town Council, the Greater Morpeth Development Trust and Groundwork North East to come up with plans and funding of £30,000 for the venture was provided by Marks and Spencer through its 5p carrier bag charges, with additional support coming from a £10,000 Lottery grant.

Volunteers from the group and staff from the organisations involved pitched in to clear the old allotment and re-plant it. An area has been allocated to Morpeth First School.

Tommy’s Field Allotment Association Secretary Dorothy Slater said: “We’re pleased to get this award just a year after opening the garden and hopefully we can progress to the Thriving and Outstanding levels in the future.

“We were very happy with the way it was designed and the perennials from Whalton Manor House look fantastic. We’re now looking to further develop the wildflower section to encourage pollinating insects.

“The children really enjoy getting stuck in when they come here and the next phase of the project is to get funding for some smaller beds to be used by people with physical disabilities or mental health issues. They would have the option of moving on to larger beds if they wished.”

The MS Research and Relief Fund building in Stobhill gave its garden a colourful facelift thanks to a hardy group of staff and volunteers.

After putting the word out that it wanted to make some improvements, staff received donations from a number of local organisations and users and the Blackadders tag rugby team from Whitley Bay assisted by digging out shingles and pebbles – one of the players has links to the centre.

Flowers include snapdragons, primroses, daisies, lobelia, sea breeze, pansies, phlox and poppies, there are fruit trees and hanging baskets and also some large sandstone blocks to sit on.

Garden designer Michael Dixon donated his time to oversee the changes and five flower beds were positioned so they look like petals.

MS Research and Relief Fund Networking and Marketing Officer Sue Dowson said: “We’re absolutely over the moon with the award.

“The vast majority of the work was done by volunteers and some of them have MS so it’s a great boost for them that their efforts have been recognised.

“Over the winter months we will be planting a purple mountain aster and re-planting some of the beds. Hedgehog nests, as well as bird feeders and tables, will be installed and we’re also looking to put some recycled furniture in the garden in time for next summer.”

The garden at the back of the New Life Christian Centre in Dacre Street had a range of stunning displays on show thanks to the efforts of Derek Easton.

His mother, Audrey, goes along to its lunch club and after being heavily involved in a gardening project at the town’s St George’s Hospital for a number of years, he offered his services to the church.

New Life Minister Mike Willis said: “I was surprised to receive the award and I’m really pleased for everyone at the church, particularly Derek.

“He has done a fantastic job, I can’t speak highly enough of what he has achieved in the garden. He looks after the beds very well and he has planted lots of lovely flowers.

“People have commented on how impressive and colourful it looks when they walk or drive past.”

There were more than 100 entries for It’s Your Neighbourhood from the Northumbria region in 2012, up from 37 last year.