A touch of Morocco has come to Wythenshawe, in the form of a new colourful community garden, thanks to the vision and organisational skills of Karen Heslop, a Neighbourhood Officer with Wythenshawe Community Housing Group (WCHG), which manages almost 14,000 properties, providing homes for more than 29,000 people in South Manchester.
The story began in February 2021 when Manchester City Council offered WCHG the site of a run-down, rubbish strewn former children’s play area on Mottershead Road, on the condition that the Wythenshawe based social housing provider, use the land in an innovative and sustainable way for the benefit of the local community.
Karen said: “I was a member of WCHG’s sustainability working group when the council offered us the land, and when I saw the site for myself ideas about how we could turn it into something special for the community began to grow and grow. So, when I was offered the chance to lead the project I leapt at it, even though I’d never taken on something like that before.
“Ever since that first visit to the site I’d been thinking about some of the beautiful public gardens I’d seen on holiday in Morocco, and I really wanted local people to have access to something as bright and peaceful, with fruit trees and colourful wild flowers.
“Funding came from different teams at WCHG and in the months that followed there was numerous site visits, door knocking and tenant consultations, and a plan was drawn up and distributed to everyone in the area.
“The first practical action was to tidy up the site and remove the old broken play area toys. Then, over the course of several visits we started the work of laying out the garden. One of our partners, Bespoke Contract Services Ltd, sent a team for free to do a lot of the heavy work, such as rotating the soil, and they did a marvellous job.
“Next, we planted the flowers, trees and bushes using a donation of plants and seeds from the Bideford Centre, Tesco’s and Wilko, and Asda provided refreshments for volunteers working on the site.
“Staff members at WCHG volunteered their time throughout the project, working alongside local residents to turn what was a pretty rundown space into a sustainable and colourful oasis for local people to enjoy, with apple trees, blueberry, gooseberry and strawberry bushes, grape vines and wild flowers.”
WCHG has committed to the upkeep of the site, which our grounds people will maintain in the future.
Paul Seymour, Executive Director of Customers and Communities at WCHG said: “As a social business, WCHG delivers numerous benefits to the people of Wythenshawe, above and beyond providing a home, and this new green space for the people of Mottershead Road to enjoy is a perfect example.
“Karen has done a brilliant job in bringing together residents, local businesses and volunteers from WCHG to create something positive and sustainable for local residents to enjoy. Our thanks go out to all those that helped make this wonderful project happen.”