Barnwell Verge: Seeds of Hope

The Barnwell Verge: Seeds of Hope project will rejuvenate a problem area on Barnwell Road, stopping parking on the verge, increasing active travel, encouraging wildlife, building intergenerational relationships in the community, and improving the overall appearance with art and colour.

The idea for the project came from a local resident and student, James, who was fed up with seeing people drive over and park on the verge on his way to school. He came to Abbey People with an idea to work with local school children to develop a community garden that would change people’s behaviours on the way to school, improve nature and challenge climate change.

James said: “I was tired of seeing mud and puddles along the main road in our community, so I wanted to make a change. I thought this would be the best way to make our community the best place it could be.”

Nicky Shepard, CEO of Abbey People, said: “The verge along Barnwell Road currently and historically has a problem with people parking their cars on the grass. This churns up the grass, causing muddy verges and compaction, putting the verge and trees at risk. Grass lawns do not aid biodiversity, and the area looks sad and unloved. Through the early phases of the project, we’ve worked with school children, community members, parents, and local neighbours to find out their response to the idea, co-create designs for the planting and art elements, and recruit a local designer and artist to gather community ideas into a cohesive overall design. Our community surveys show people support the project and want an end to verge-parking in the area.”

The project will create a 500+m2 community garden on Rayson Way, and a 250m long ‘river’ of ivy and other plants to mirror and run parallel to Coldham’s Brook along Barnwell Road with integrated sculptures and stained-glass art made collaboratively with the local community.

Artist, Jill Fordham, Hurdy Gurdy Glass, said: “I am a local stained glass artist, resident and an active environmental campaigner and I am delighted to be able to make a contribution to this exciting project which aims to improve the health of the environment in my local neighbourhood. I have been collaborating with Abbey People and local residents to create a colourful glass sculpture design, which is intended to create stunning and vibrant lighting effects in the new biodiversity garden. The overall theme of the sculpture is “relationships” and is aimed to create an awareness of our interdependence with all living beings and forces around us. Helping us to consider ways in which we can all help each other to live together in a more sustainable way at a time when our natural environment is under threat.”

The designs include a community garden with trees, wildflowers, bee posts and integrated art which will double nature while creating an urban oasis of nature along the busy ring-road.

Garden Designer, Daniel Lee from Teasels Biodiverse Design & Consultancy, said: “The Barnwell Verge: Seeds of Hope project is about building meaningful connections with nature for the residents of Abbey and the local wildlife. The colourful community garden on Rayson Way will create a biodiverse oasis of nature, while still being functional for local residents and supporting active travel.”

The project will install greatly improved habitats for invertebrates, pollinators, capture pollution particulates, improve drainage and water cycling, improve soil formation, and safeguard the existing trees which are currently suffering from soil compaction.

The planting and sculptures will be a permanent installation, with engagement boards explaining the project and linking with trails along Coldham’s Brook and the River Cam.

Abbey People’s Sustainability Co-ordinator, Caitlin Herman, said: “The project will develop a group of volunteers to carry out regular maintenance and gardening along the planting area, as well as carrying out biodiversity surveys. We’ll measure biodiversity gains and pollution reduction through surveys before and throughout the project. Local volunteers will be trained to carry out these surveys, therefore increasing environmental knowledge within the ward. The aim is for the group to continue once the project ends.”

The project is part of the River Cam Can project and is part-funded by the National Lottery Communities Fund. Abbey People are calling for local businesses and individuals to provide support through sponsorship which will bring this vision to reality. If you are interested in sponsoring the project, please view the sponsorship pack here or you can donate below.


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