Chichester volunteer group win awards for community gardens work
A group of volunteers have won three prestigious awards at the Royal Horticultural Society's annual South and South East 'Britain in Bloom Awards' in recognition of their work to enhance community gardens in Chichester's Oaklands Park and Bishop's Palace Gardens.
Transition Chichester, which was founded in 2008, works alongside Chichester District Council in two of Chichester's much-loved beauty spots — Oaklands Park and Bishop's Palace Gardens. In an awards ceremony in September, the group's dedication to maintaining the community gardens in these areas earned them a Neighbourhood Award Grade 4; Gold for Community Participation; and overall Category Winner for Environmental Responsibility.
During the summer months in Oaklands Park and throughout the year in Bishop's Palace Gardens, the team of volunteers run regular gardening sessions offering a therapeutic space for all.
Julia Sander at Transition Chichester says: "We were delighted to receive a visit from the Vice-President, Mark Porter, in June and to receive this highly esteemed award. We were thrilled to receive two gold awards for our community garden. Our success is down to our wonderful team of volunteers who turn out rain or shine to get stuck in and produce fine crops of fruit and vegetables.
"The award celebrates the two community gardens that our group look after in Chichester. We are very proud of the therapeutic benefit derived from the gardens by our volunteers. In addition to these projects, we are excited to be working with the Chichester Festival Theatre on a hedge planting project in Oaklands Park, which will help to promote wildlife and biodiversity.
"Our gardening sessions are open to everyone and have been a lifeline to so many different people. We even have some visitors who use the sessions to aid recovery from illness such as stroke, and we've supported war veterans, as well as offering a safe space for many marginalised groups. People who may benefit from our sessions are often signposted to us by Chichester District Council's Social Prescribing team, who work alongside GP surgeries to support patients with non-medical issues that affect their health and wellbeing.
"We run three sessions a week in Bishop's Palace Gardens, with the Saturday session being an open one for anyone to attend. Each session has a leader who oversees the group and makes sure everyone is doing something they enjoy, and we all take the time to socialise with a tea and coffee break. People of all ages are welcome — just pop along to Bishop's Palace Gardens for one of our sessions and say hello!"
Councillor Mark Chilton, Cabinet Member for Chichester Contract Services at Chichester District Council, says: "We're lucky to have so many wonderful volunteers who help us keep our parks and gardens looking beautiful, and we're so pleased to see Transition Chichester's hard work honoured by this award.
"The group are an excellent example of community spirit and the desire to improve the environment we live in. Through the work of their dedicated volunteers, Transition Chichester helps bring people together to improve their physical and mental health in two of our much-loved parks.
"As a council, we maintain a number of parks and gardens which are free to visit and provide opportunities to improve health, enjoy nature, relax and unwind, and to play and have fun.
"Bishop's Palace Garden is truly one of Chichester's hidden gems, showcasing beautiful planting, a rose pergola and arboretum, with access to the City Walls walks. For those who haven't visited before, it is located in the city centre close to the cathedral. Oaklands Park is the largest public recreational space in Chichester, located in the north of the city by Chichester Festival Theatre. With a football pitch, softball pitch, rugby pitches and pavilion, it is home to a number of sports clubs. It also hosts events and includes two play parks, and a meadow area, community orchard and vegetable garden."
People interested in joining Transition Chichester can visit their website, where they can find a calendar of events and sessions as well as contact information. All of the group's activities are also listed in a monthly leaflet, Shoutout, and copies of this can be found at the New Park Centre or Chichester City Council office.
There are a range of different types of volunteer opportunities available within the Chichester District, and people can find more information on the Voluntary Action Arun and Chichester website.
Date of Release: 26 October 2023