When it comes to working together with local residents, the team behind Westraven Community Café & Garden in Peterborough knows just what can be achieved through collaboration. The charity has become a champion for inspiring community action that changes lives. Now, it’s mobilising people to tackle the climate crisis.
Climate change continues to have an enormous impact on our planet, its wildlife, and communities. Things need to change in order to protect our world and enjoy a better quality of life for ourselves and future generations.
The Community Café & Garden is an independent charity, supported by Cross Keys Homes, located in Westwood and Ravensthorpe. The charity offers safe, friendly spaces for people to connect with each other and contribute towards making their neighbourhood a better place to live.
In 2022, Westraven Community Café & Garden was awarded £8,925 funding from The National Lottery Community Fund. These funds enabled the creation of a full programme of activities, events and workshops that were held throughout the year, which reached more than 1,000 participants. The aim: to ignite a community-led response to the climate emergency.
The team, which consists mainly of volunteers, ran a series of consultations with local residents to gain feedback. Following this, they held a range of over 70 eco activities throughout the year to educate and inspire. These included everything from Get Growing workshops, a Repair Café, Family Gardening Club, seed saving sessions, volunteer training and more. Attendees included everyone from preschool children through to teenagers, Schools SEN, Community Payback, and retirees.
The garden is now a fantastic example of community-led climate action. It is being used to help increase people’s knowledge on sustainable techniques, such as food growing and upcycling. The garden’s habitats and biodiversity have been improved with wildflowers, edible plants, and by installing upcycled bee hotels made from repurposed materials. There is now a wealth of wildlife and a thriving ecosystem.
A new Heritage Garden was created by lead volunteer Risé Symonds, who also ran gardening and cooking workshops throughout the year: “In my own garden at home, I grow mostly traditional, heritage or heirloom varieties of vegetables, so I thought why not try something like this at the community garden? The heritage garden was created to showcase these heirloom plants, and to inform people about where their vegetables originated from.”
Risé continues: “To me, the garden is a place where I can relax and release all stress and anxiety, whilst also feeling fully involved as part of the team. Running the workshops has been a joy as people are genuinely interested in, and enthusiastic about, the advice, the experience, and putting into practice what they have gained. Especially if you pass on money saving tips!”
Pupils from Ravensthorpe Primary School use the site on a daily basis, and have made a massive contribution to the garden. In 2022, they helped Risé to create the Heritage Garden, sowed wildflower beds, looked after the allotment areas and gathered apples to make juice. The active involvement of younger generations with the garden is vital to develop the awareness and skills needed to live more sustainably in the future too.
Community food growing has been found to help foster a stronger sense of community, and it is better for the environment because there’s fewer food miles from plot to plate. Luke Payn, Community Garden Projects Manager said: “The project has enabled us to deliver a diverse programme of activities and improvements to the garden, whilst making important connections with ecology, climate and food production. The sessions have brought our community together, and inspired us to work collectively towards tackling the challenges of the rapid ecological decline and climate crisis. In the process, we have been learning new skills, expanded our community connections and had lots of fun. Whilst ensuring that our vibrant Community Garden – which is so important for our physical, mental and social well being – is open, inclusive and accessible.”
In addition to the garden, the café provides a friendly and welcoming hub for everyone. Inside, there is a community fridge, which offers a source of free food that would otherwise have gone to waste. More vegan and vegetarian options have been added into the café’s menu and all ingredients are sourced locally, where possible, to help boost environmental credentials.
The charity is lucky enough to have been supported by a range of partners, including Peterborough Reads, Froglife, YMCA Trinity Group and Peterborough Presents. Inspired by the work Westraven is carrying out, William George Auctions decided to get involved with regular volunteer days at the site. They said: “We believe in the ethos and find the space and team really inspiring. As an online business – mostly inside with our laptops – our time at Westraven is a great opportunity to get everyone together outside of work, contributing to a great cause and is good for everyone’s mental health. We’re proud to support this initiative and hope to spend more time there making a difference…as well as sampling the super soup!”
The Westraven team worked closely with Lauren Kendrick from Flourish Peterborough, who was instrumental in helping to create and deliver the bid. She said: “This project was wonderful to work on, seeing numerous different people of all ages engaging, questioning, learning and sharing about climate issues and how we can support and make changes in our area to support our planet and future.”
Westraven Community Café & Garden (PE3 7LF) has lots of exciting plans for 2023, so why not pay it a visit? For more information, and to see its upcoming events, visit the website at www.westraven.co.uk or see Facebook and Instagram.
Westraven is an independent charity (CIO) which receives support in-kind from Cross Keys Homes. This project has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players, with funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. During the pandemic, in 2020 alone, The National Lottery Community Fund distributed almost £1 billion to charities and community organisations across the UK. To find out more visit www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk.