Blakeney Hill Growers

GREAT Food Gloucestershire visited the Forest of Dean in Spring 2024 to find out from Beki at Blakeney Hill Growers how their growing project got started and how it has evolved over the years. On the day we visited the goats were enjoying the early spring sunshine and wonderful views over the River Severn.

When did the project start and why?

Blakeney Hill Growers began in 2010 from a failed funding bid for community composting! Someone saw the bid and was interested, and a chat led to the possibility of growing vegetables and keeping goats on a derelict orchard. We sent a leaflet round to tell people in the area we were having a meeting about sharing land and 30 people turned up. By the following spring we had 2 fields, 2 acres for goats and just under an acre for veg. We got some funding for fencing and set up a non-profit with a steering group full of knowledgeable people.

Who is involved?

20 families are now involved on a weekly basis and more turn up on an ad hoc basis for events, with our steering group meeting up once per month.

What are the core values or aims?

The core values are building community, sharing, and having a flexible framework so people can join in with whatever parts of it they would like to. It costs £6 per year for membership with access to the fields, and then people sign up for different ‘portions’ such as the bees, veg, or goats. We’ve had sheep, ducks, and chickens in the past too – whatever people would like to try. The goat portion is £130 per year and you get to milk them for 1 day per week. The veg is £24 per year and families meet on a Saturday morning to put in a few hours work.

What impact has it had?

It has really helped to build community and connect people in Blakeney with each other and the land. The project provides food and activities like learning to make cheese and preserves.

What are the key challenges?

Keeping animals is quite a challenge compared to veg growing which is much more straight forward. There are more rules and legislation to adhere to. Another challenge is having to regularly apply for funding to top up the project, although in the main, the project is self-sustaining and continuously evolving.

What are your future aspirations?

We want to get more people involved in the garden, growing their own food, and having more control over their own landscape. We want everyone to be able to access better diets and health. Which is why we also launching the ‘Dirty Carrots’ project – to link community growing to schools and families which would work really well in the Forest of Dean. It’s a development project and we want to employ a coordinator to connect with schools, and coordinate the teaching of gardening in school time as a lesson, with links back to the community garden.

To find out more about Blakeney Hill Growers or the Dirty Carrots project check out their Website and Social Media.




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