A RUN-DOWN plot has been brought back to life as a community allotment.
The Hop Garden in High Spen, Gateshead, features a fruit corner, nectar bar, bug hotel and a bench made from recycled wood for gardeners to take the weight off their feet.
But just two-and-a-half years ago the site had become overgrown and a target for fly-tippers, regularly sporting the odd three-piece suite.
Then Sarah Cossom got her hands on it and with the help of her husband David and volunteers from the village, has transformed it.
Now a host of organic vegetables and fruits, as well as the garden’s signature hops, grow there and volunteer gardeners of all ages help out.
Sarah, who works part-time at Newcastle University, but spends about 20 hours a week in the garden, said: “For years I had been looking at this plot of land, right next to our house, watching people taking it then giving up on it because it’s such a big site for one person.
“I always wanted it to be a community allotment. My aim was to make it as accessible as possible.”
Eventually Gateshead Council went through the waiting list to reallocate the plot, with everyone turning it down but Sarah.
She managed to secure a string of grants, including one from the Mayor of Gateshead, which she used to help clear the site, landscape it and buy tools for youngsters who wanted to help out.
Sarah even managed to get some cash to improve the area directly outside the allotment and create a meadow which David cuts traditionally with a scythe.
There is also an orchard nearby with apples, plums, pears and cherry trees.
Volunteers help out on a Thursday morning, while children from High Spen Primary come to the garden regularly as part of their after-school Greenfingers club and are already starting to see the benefit of their hard work.
Year Six pupil Catherine Whitfield, 10, said: “I like gardening here because there are lots of different things to do. You can pick things, see the chickens. I have learned a lot. We can take some of the produce home too, it’s really good fun and it’s always different every week.”
Classmate Christopher Workman, 10, said: “It’s a fun thing to do in your spare time and its rewarding to see what you have grown.”
Harrison Kane, nine, who is in Year Five, said: “It’s really exciting. We plant stuff and watch it grow and sometimes we get to keep it. Last week I planted some mint and it’s grown really high now.”
Nicola Baron, Year Four and Five teacher, said: “If you get children involved it sows the seeds, literally, for the future. This is a fabulous spot and it’s only five minutes’ walk from the school.
“It’s really nice for the children to see things through from a seed to a vegetable. This is stuff we can’t teach in the classroom.”
With red kites circling overhead, the Hop Garden is a haven boasting raspberries, redcurrants, gooseberries, and blackberries, as well as apple trees.
Tomatoes and squash grow in polytunnels built on the remains of a former greenhouse, while chickens run about in a run made using donated chicken wire.
Elsewhere in the garden there are mint and other herbs, artichokes, runner beans, asparagus, rhubarb, sprouts, potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic.
There are raised beds for easy planting and a bench and gate made with recycled wood by tree-surgeon David.
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