Back in 2017, when we first launched our community cafe and garden, we knew that we wanted to create a safe space for local people to come together to improve their health, happiness and the local environment. Our aim was to support the Westraven community and people from the wider Peterborough area too.
As a charity, we collaborate with partners to help our local residents make their neighbourhood an even better place to live. So, when we were lucky enough to receive funding of £8,925 from The National Lottery Community Fund in 2022 we knew we wanted to use it as an opportunity to spark a community-led response to the climate emergency.
Climate change continues to have an enormous impact on our planet, its wildlife, and communities. These changes increase the risk of extreme weather conditions, such as flooding and heat waves, and it threatens our food supply and puts many wildlife species at risk of extinction. We want to make things better by empowering people who live in the neighbourhoods of Westwood and Ravensthorpe.
Our team, which consists mainly of volunteers, ran a series of consultations with residents to gain feedback. Following this, we created a full programme of more than 70 activities, events and workshops that reached an amazing 1,000+ participants over the course of the year. The sessions have brought our community together, and inspired us to work collectively towards tackling the challenges of the rapid ecological decline.
We’re proud to have delivered a diverse programme of activities and improvements to the outside space. These included everything from Get Growing workshops, a Repair Café, Family Gardening Club, seed saving sessions, volunteer training and more. Attendees included preschool children through to teenagers, Schools SEN, Community Payback, and retirees.
In the process, we have been learning new skills, expanded our community connections and had lots of fun. We’re lucky enough to have been supported by a range of partners, including Peterborough Reads, Froglife, YMCA Trinity Group, Fenton's Herbology, and Peterborough Presents, just to mention a few.
Inspired by the work we're 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!”
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. The garden is being used to help increase people’s knowledge on sustainable techniques, such as food growing and upcycling. The 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. Pupils from Ravensthorpe Primary School use the site on a daily basis, and have made a massive contribution. 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.
In addition to the garden, our 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.
We 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.”
We’re so proud to have reached more than 1,000 local residents with this project alone - and hope to top this figure next year! We have lots of exciting plans for Westraven Community Café & Garden in 2023, so why not pay us a visit? For more information, and to see our upcoming events, keep an eye on the website and follow us on Facebook and Instagram too.
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.