How a grandmother’s mission to create a community garden was helped by Mayor Rotheram’s Community Environment Fund and workers building new train station
Plans for a community garden on disused land in Kirkby were kickstarted by funding from Mayor Steve Rotheram’s Community Environment Fund – then given a helping hand by workers building the town’s new £80m Headbolt Lane train station.
Angela Davis had a dream to build an eco-therapy community garden in Kirkby and secured a plot of land in Tower Hill at a peppercorn rent from Knowsley Council.
The grandmother, who had just taken a course in mental health training, wanted to create an urban garden where people could use plants and nature as a form of therapy.
She was awarded a £5,000 grant from Mayor Rotheram’s Community Environment Fund but the wildly overgrown plot needed to be cleared.
As part of efforts by the Combined Authority to make sure projects spread social value, workers building the Headbolt Lane station – which will be the first to be serviced by the city region’s new £500m publicly owned battery powered trains – used heavy machinery to create a walkway and concrete patio area for exercise classes.
Angela Davis, founder of the Eco Therapy Community Garden, said:
“I am really interested in eco therapy – which is nature therapy – and I spotted this piece of land, which had been a garden about fifteen years ago but had totally rewilded. There were that many weeds we basically couldn’t open the gate and it was unsafe for our volunteers, many of whom are elderly, so we had to get it cut back.
“We got a call from the Mayor’s office and the Buckingham Group – who are making the new rail station and they agreed to come and help us out. They came, we had a meeting, and they provided us with a path right through the garden, which is quite lengthy was quite a lot of work. They also gave us a platform to do activities such as Tai Chi and hopefully music in the future.”
Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said:
“I launched my Community Environment Fund to help residents of all ages and backgrounds to work together for the good of their neighbourhood – and our planet. It’s given us the opportunity to invest in projects like Angela’s garden, which are helping people to connect with one another and with the great outdoors.
“The creativity, imagination and commitment of our residents never fails to amaze me. Taken together, lots of small actions from ordinary people working together with a common purpose can make a massive difference – it’s the true meaning of community spirit and nowhere does it better than here in the Liverpool City Region.”
Angela established the Eco Therapy Garden Community Interest Company in 2018 to improve the health and wellbeing of Kirkby residents.
It aims to tackle social isolation and mental health issues by providing a therapy garden and the combined services of talking and eco therapies.
In 2022, the Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside HH John Roberts presented the garden with a tree as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Jubilee project.
The garden promotes ‘grow your own’ skills and volunteers are planning a preschool garden play area and a tuck shop for coffee and snacks.
It is open to the public on Wednesday from midday to 4pm and Sunday midday to 3pm and is open to referrals from individuals, GPs, faith leaders and social prescribing charities.
David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Net Zero and Air Quality, said:
“Angela’s determination and can-do attitude to improve where she lives is admirable, resulting in a piece of overgrown disused land being turned into a green haven for the community to enjoy the many benefits outdoor spaces like this can bring.
“This is further proof of the fantastic work that the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is doing in areas such as Knowsley and beyond, investing in our communities to ensure they are vibrant, attractive and great places to live.”
Cllr Tony Brennan, Knowsley Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said:
“The Eco Therapy Garden is a fantastic asset for the community. They work with volunteers to promote mental wellness, reduce isolation and improve people’s mental health. I’m delighted the Council and other partners have been able support the Eco Therapy Garden with their aims and objectives.”