Open Garden Meeting for Wigtown
at Booktown Bunkhouse on Tuesday 27 August 2019 from 7.30 pm
Wigtown & Bladnoch Community Initiative hosted an open meeting on Tuesday, 27 August 2019 about the future of the garden behind the former Bank of Scotland Building in Wigtown. The Initiative is a community company and bought the building last winter, with plans to create two affordable tenancies and a bunkhouse type budget hotel to be called the Booktown Bunkhouse.
Behind the building, a very large garden was developed by a former bank manager, when managers lived in the flat above the bank. For over 30 years, a local couple had an agreement with Bank of Scotland to use the area as an allotment, and they have made an extensive, highly productive, organic garden mainly producing vegetables and fruit (there are impressive globe artichokes and white autumn raspberries to name two), but also with flowers, shrubs and trees including a Scottish (or Arran) Whitebeam (Sorbus arranensis), a mulberry tree (Morus sp.) and a kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) vine (sadly not productive outdoors in this climate). Retaining these is important. Considering retiring from this level of gardening exertion anyway, they have taken the chance offered by the Initiative's plans to support the transfer of running the garden to the community.
The open meeting's aim to get together interested folk, and to let them share ideas and opinions on how the garden could be used and how to manage it. Eighteen people attended the meeting.
Support for the idea of a community garden was strong, but what a community garden is, or should be, was not so clear. There were suggestions about allotments, square foot gardening plots (“micro-allotments”), food production (“edible Wigtown”, especially to help those without gardens of their own, and to work with local food bank type initiatives), education about gardening,
The project could encourage younger generations to take an interest in, and learn about, gardening. Wigtown Primary School has done a lot of environmental work, including small scale gardening at the school, and might wish to be involved. Youth groups, Brownies, Guides and so on might likewise take an interest. Aiming to be inclusive of all groups, including provision of raised beds for less physically able, is vital. Taking advantage of extensive knowledge and experience in the area for education and training would make sense.
Wigtown in Bloom (a local voluntary group which manages the Louis McGuffie VC Memorial Gardens in Wigtown's town square) has limited volunteer numbers and could not envisage taking on this new garden, but could certainly advise, and they are in need of some space for bringing on seedlings, over-wintering sensitive plants, storage and so on. They would welcome a poly-tunnel safely hidden away in the centre of town, and a town compost unit.
Caution was advised too in some respects. There will be a major building renovation works in 2020, and the garden will be pretty much off limits during that time. We need to ensure that as much of the garden as possible is protected from damage, and that plants worthy of saving are removed to safety from the area nearest the building. The renovations will include adding an out-building in the garden which could form a boundary between the tenancies and bunkhouse, and the garden itself. The tenancies will also need a portion of garden allocated to them.
Access to the community garden area will need to be controlled in some way, to reduce the risk of nuisance to tenants, and other neighbours, and of damage in the garden. Coded entry may be possible for Wigtown in Bloom volunteers, allotment holders, and others who use the garden. Neighbours backing onto the garden could be shielded perhaps by careful placement of a poly-tunnel at the very end of the garden, forming an additional boundary.
Ensuring we establish a system that works in the long run will be important, and future meetings can consider management in more detail. Fund-raising will be needed too, for things like a poly-tunnel, and inevitable other expenses. Working holidays may be possible – using the bunkhouse – such as when larger programmes of gardening work are needing completed.
There was a tour of the garden to end the meeting.