The secret’s out for community garden

The Secret Garden Club, based behind the Young Peoples Centre in Whitley Bay.
The Secret Garden Club, based behind the Young Peoples Centre in Whitley Bay.

A community garden project developed on wasteland is inviting local children to come and get their hands dirty.

The Secret Garden Club, behind the Young People’s Centre in Whitley Bay, is launching a series of dedicated Forest Schools for children up to the age of 12 to encourage hands-on learning.

It will provide a unique opportunity for children to play outdoors, build dens, make fires, use tools and climb.

Mum-of-two Rhiannon Williams, a professional gardener, spotted the disused land three years ago when she was taking her daughter to dance class and instantly recognised the area’s potential.

With the help and support of North Tyneside Council’s Business Factory programme, she has been able to create a blossoming social enterprise.

Rhiannon said: “It’s been a long journey to get this far and while the garden is still work in progress, it really is becoming a well-used community asset.

“The Forest School and the other classes will hopefully provide a regular income stream into the garden so that we can continue to invest in plants and equipment; we are particularly keen to build new raised beds and need more apparatus and soil to help us to grow plants which we can sell.

“While lots of people lend a hand, we are still in need of more volunteers to come along and help and it really doesn’t matter whether you have any gardening experience or not. At the moment we are trying to build a fence and gate to protect the area when it’s not being used, but we have plans to create a pizza oven and a dedicated arts area, so there are lots of opportunities to get involved even if you’re not green-fingered.”

Rachel Parry, eight, from Whitley Bay, was one of the first to come along to the new Forest School and was delighted to be playing outside and getting dirty. She said: “I love being outside and being free, I’ve particularly enjoyed learning to whittle sticks.”

She was joined by Mya Sinclair, also eight, who loved playing in the mud kitchen and being free to make a mess.

Session are every Thursday in term-time – pre-school, 1pm to 3pm; age five and over, 4pm to 6pm.