Designed to become a sustainability hub centered on growing food, the Kent Community Oasis Garden (KentCOG) is a collaborative outdoor space for staff and students and members of the local community to use for a range of activities. The garden provides a space for relaxation and learning new skills, as well as growing fruit and vegetables throughout the seasons. The garden is now also home to a new initiative to develop wellbeing and green care.
KentCOG is being developed by the University’s Student Wellbeing team with new partners, East Kent Mind. East Kent Mind will provide opportunities to take part in sessions, peer support activities and workshops with an aim to support and improve mental health and wellbeing.
The garden is located along the Crab and Winkle pathway to the far east of the Canterbury Campus past the Park Wood accommodation. Helping with its design – with an emphasis on accessibility- is Gardeners’ World local expert Mark Lane. Other organisations actively involved with the garden include the Whitstable and Herne Bay Beekeepers group and Kent Union.
Activities in the garden also fit in with several of the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals that the University has pledged to follow.
KentCOG would love to hear from any members of the public with skills in gardening, foraging, design, art, permaculture, and mental health who are interested in helping develop the garden.
I received my placement with Kent Enterprise Trust through the employability points scheme at the University of Kent. I chose to accept the placement offer over others because I was keen to gain some knowledge in environmental work after completing my degree in Biomedical Science. My job title has been Environmental Champion, which seemed perfect for the experience I was looking for.
My first two days were spent in the Kent Community Oasis Garden, where I was given the freedom to complete my own project. Inspiration for my project came from research that I had carried out beforehand and the presence of materials in which I saw potential to be recycled into something environmentally friendly – an insect house. Insect houses encourage biodiversity, certain insects that eat pests in the garden and sometimes pollinators. It therefore, seemed beneficial to create an environment where insects that may increase the yields of the garden can live and breed.
On the first day, I lead two volunteers to collect and assemble the materials needed for the base and structure of the house. It was very rewarding to take my own initiative and guide a group to begin a completely new project. There were no volunteers available to help me on my second day so I completed the rest mostly by myself. I collected rotting wood, bark, bamboo, grass cuttings, leaf litter and other organic materials from all around the garden to arrange in the four layers of the insect house. This meant that whilst I was recycling, I was also tidying the garden a little and removing unwanted items from it. As the structure required hammering nails and sawing wood, I had to learn some new DIY skills. This was also extremely rewarding, as it was the first time that I had carried out any task like this and so it was beneficial for my life-skills and knowledge. I was really happy with the final result and I think it will very likely attract the right insects to help the garden. The volunteers in the garden seemed interested in the insect house and many of them asked me questions and wanted to know about how and why I was building it. I think this is another reason why my project was useful, as it engaged the people that it will hopefully help and raised some awareness of the importance of the ecosystem in the garden.
I spent some time in the office writing up a report for my insect house project. Researching the subject and documenting my work in this way was a useful experience. My report will be used on the charity’s website and used as an example of the benefits the garden has. The fact that my project can be an example of the great work the charity do is very satisfying. The rest of my time was spent organising and packing books for a book sale during a yearly celebration. The funds raised will be used for the community garden.
Overall, my time at Kent Enterprise Trust was productive and valuable and I feel like I have really developed my DIY, leadership and teamwork abilities. I was warmly welcomed into both the garden and office environments and enjoyed discovering how a charity runs and how that affects the beneficiaries. My wish to gain some insight into work involved with the environment was also fulfilled. The experience was rewarding and I definitely feel as though I am more prepared to enter the working world.
I’ve always enjoyed working outside, using my hands, and
being surrounded by nature. I began my Horticulture apprenticeship with Kent
Enterprise Trust on 3rd December 2018, with a view to developing
skills that I might need for the future, and to support the Trust in its
mission to help people get back into work. Working with the Trust has also
given me the opportunity to begin an RHS Level 2 Horticulture Course at Hadlow
College, which would be very beneficial for my future plans to become
self-employed. I believe that gardening and being in a space that is
non-threatening is also extremely helpful in improving people’s self-esteem, as
new skills are constantly being taught and shared.
Although the environment can be
informal, the projects that we are working on are structured and planned so
that we ensure that the garden is always moving towards its full potential. I
personally feel a huge sense of satisfaction when it comes to help building
structures such as the new polytunnel at the Community Oasis Garden site and
sourcing the materials for such tasks.
It is also important that we share
ideas with other community gardens, and this is a skill that the Trust is
helping me to develop. I appreciate the fact that I am able to attend other
gardens and network with like-minded people, and advance my current working
knowledge. A key word that I consider relevant for the Trust is
‘collaboration’, and this is something that is important for its future as a
sustainable space, which is important for the people’s general wellbeing and