From wasteland to woodland

How Greening Wymondham is transforming unloved land sustainably, with community at its heart

In a world where we are increasingly seeing the impact of global climate change, we can feel powerless to do anything about it.  But it doesn’t have to be like this.

At Norfolk Community Foundation, we believe that we can address climate injustice and improve local environments locally be empowering people to take action on causes that matter to them. We have been helping communities create a sense of connection, stewardship, and responsibility for the environment through funding grassroots initiatives that reflect each community’s unique needs and priorities.

Earlier this month, Catrin, Gemma, Lauren and Adam from Norfolk Community Foundation braved the rain to visit Greening Wymondham and spoke to the project leader Peter Knights. The volunteer group was supported by a grant from the Foundation’s Greening our Communities fund – which empowers local action for global climate impact.

Volunteers wearing raincoats weed the ground
Volunteers weed the ground
Volunteers having a cup of tea in the rain. They all wear raincoats and stand under a tree.
Volunteers having a cup of tea
A volunteer plants a pumpkin plant in a raised flowerbed.
A volunteer plants a pumpkin plant in a raised flowerbed

Greening Wymondham has revitalised a neglected urban area on the periphery of Browick Road Recreation Ground. This space, once overgrown and filled with dumped waste, is being transformed into a biodiverse oasis accessible to all.

The Community Orchard is a cornerstone of the project. Volunteers have planted bulbs, wildflower areas, and over thirty local heritage variety fruit trees. Thanks to funding from the Foundation, the orchard has been able to expand to include a Forest Food Garden, an enlarged activity area, raised beds, and additional planting. These efforts have further enhanced biodiversity, provided fresh produce for the community, and helped to serve as a focal point for local activities.

Sustainability is at the heart of the project’s efforts. The majority of their work is achieved through manual labour and hand tools, embodying a ‘no mow’ ethos. Some of their grant was used to pay for scything lessons for volunteers – a more eco-friendly alternative to mowing. The project also emphasises local sourcing and repurposing materials, including using waste from tree surgeons as path edging. While some of the monoculture of brambles were cleared, some have been left behind to support species already living there. Their actions are already having positive impacts on the local environment, with Peter noting that, “One of our volunteers did a butterfly survey, and the number of butterflies and the number of species we have seen has increased since we started here.”

Beyond environmental benefits, green projects also significantly enhance community well-being. The project engages many people in the community, from toddlers to students and retirees. Preschoolers have been making a bug hotel, improving biodiversity and supporting pollinators, which will in turn support the plants across the rest of the project.

Peter said: “It’s a bit of a social thing as well, to be honest. The social aspect is a big draw. One volunteer is a member of Wymondham Players and a lot of people who wouldn’t usually go to see that sort of thing have gone and enjoyed it. It brings a lot of people together.”

The success of Greening Wymondham demonstrates the significant benefits of investing in green projects. By transforming neglected areas into thriving green spaces, these initiatives contribute to nature recovery and climate change mitigation. They also provide a blueprint for other communities looking to enhance their local environments and promote sustainability. As we continue to face the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, the success of projects like these serves as an inspiring reminder of what can be achieved through collective action.

Norfolk Community Foundation takes a holistic view of environmental sustainability, encompassing issues including biodiversity, climate resilience, and community wellbeing. We want to help create a sense of connection, stewardship, and responsibility for the environment through funding grassroots initiatives that reflect each community’s unique needs and priorities.

[Published: 14.06.2024]