Claire Loder had a dream; she dreamt the front gardens on the Whiteway estate in Bath were full of plants, flowers, shrubs, fruit and humming with insects which had attracted more birds. So Claire did something about it and together with like-minded friends and neighbours, she set about publicising and organising a Festival of Front Gardens for the summer of 2017.
They wanted to celebrate Whiteway’s front gardens and public facing spaces, bring Bath to the estate, make connections across the city and together celebrate what they had. The activity of gardening would be the most important activity as a garden can be anything when it is in the hands of a gardener. Blooming Whiteway’s Festival would be supported by a programme of events, workshops, meetings, seed swaps and plant shares; it would engage with all age groups with a focus on children through connections with schools.
Claire contacted Avon Gardens Trust, but at the time she did not have a section of her project which was suitable for requesting funds from us. I thought her project was so worthwhile I kept in touch and received all their mailings. Support and encouragement was received from Avon Wildlife Trust, Bath City Farm, Bath’s Corporate Sustainability Officer and South West in Bloom amongst others and financial support from Curo and Tesco Bags of Help. Events ran from January with an initial Warm-Up Day with residents signing up for the Front Garden Festival and even non- Whiteway residents pledged their support. February brought a drop-in session at Bath City Farm with the planting of a garden of ideas and Seeds for Change.
The launch day came on Saturday 6 May with an all-day event in Rosewarn Park, a day with activities for all the family. They were on their way with the Festival. Support sessions for the entered gardens were held throughout the summer. Claire and Jude Rice held ‘Make and Grow’ events with children. At the Festival of Nature, a Teasel and Finches workshop was held when children could pot on a teasel and talk about the connections between teasels and goldfinches while making a goldfinch out of craft materials.
Their Festival Prize Giving was at Bath City Farm on Saturday 12 August when I was able to join them. With seven categories for prizes there had been something for everyone to aim for, including Best Fun Garden as well as Best Blooms. Community Asset Awards went to gardens which had made a difference to their surrounding environment. This included a gravel garden with pots requiring much care and attention, but it had been noticed the owner’s efforts were encouraging neighbours to have a go at brightening their gardens.
I congratulated Claire and her helpers on all their hard work to engage the community and to enhance their neighbourhood. The more we can ‘Green’ our cities, the more we can attract birds and other wildlife to share our spaces. We can also help with problems such as flooding as gardens provide land where water can soak away rather than run out into the street and add to the burden carried by the drains. Personally, I look forward to Blooming Whiteway 2018.