The previously redundant Bide-A-While allotment site has been reinstated as a community growing project thanks to the efforts of fifteen unemployed Luton volunteers.
The group of volunteers came together for the Green Skills employment course run by local community charity Groundwork Luton & Bedfordshire. Since the beginning of November, the group has been learning practical skills and putting them to use in the Luton Borough Council-owned site at Riverside Park on New Bedford Road.
Thanks to their hard work, the site now boasts six allotment beds, a kissing gate, thirteen newly-planted native fruit trees and a water harvester. The group have also undertaken tasks in the County Wildlife Site within the park, learning nature conservation skills. Plus they've stopped up gaps in the fencing with a technique called dead hedging and laid bark chips (made from materials at the site) to stop the working area getting too muddy over winter.
On top of this practical experience, the volunteers have boosted their job prospects through a City & Guilds Award in Employability Skills and training for the CSCS test – the health and safety qualification that's crucial for work in the construction industry.
Project partners, LBC officers who have supported the project and other guests gathered at Riverside Park on Tuesday 8 December to help the volunteers celebrate the completion of the project.
Christian Iszchak, Groundwork's Community Project Officer, said: "This group of volunteers has been one of the best I've worked with. I've been really impressed by their commitment, interest, and high standard of work. I'm pleased that the course hasn't just benefitted the site – I know the volunteers have all got a lot out of it, whether that's gaining a qualification, being inspired to pursue a career in outdoor work, or the having local residents thank them for the improvements they've made. I'm sure every one of them will go on to achieve things now and I'm proud to have been able to play a part in that."
This Green Skills course was run in partnership with Luton Borough Council and supported by a donation from London Luton Airport Limited's Community Funding Programme.
Councillor Andy Malcolm, Chair of London Luton Airport Limited, said, "We are happy to be able to support a project that not only improves the environment for the enjoyment of the whole community, but also provides local people with skills and expertise that they will find of benefit in the future."