From overgrown land to new garden space

Shirley Faichney with Amanda Davidson and Shirley's twins Elliot and Isla (4) at the site of the proposed Methilhill Community Childrens Initiative community learning garden
Shirley Faichney with Amanda Davidson and Shirley's twins Elliot and Isla (4) at the site of the proposed Methilhill Community Childrens Initiative community learning garden

It may look like an overgrown and deserted piece of land - and definitely not the ideal space for a flourishing garden.

But in six months time, a local children’s group hopes to transform this area into a community garden fit for everyone to use.

Methilhill Community Children’s Initiative (MCCI) has big plans for the ground, which sits just down from Methilhill Primary School.

And thanks to some very welcome funding approvals - £10,000 from both the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and The Big Lottery Community and Learning Fund, and £1500 from the Central Scotland Green Network – their dreams will hopefully become a reality later this summer.

The group hopes to create a community learning garden and growing space, somewhere for the whole community to use. It will include a nature garden, planting area, outdoor kitchen, indoor yurt and activity space.

But before that can all come to life, the group is calling on local residents for any help and support they can provide in bringing the garden up to scratch.

“Anyone that has a dozen slabs lying around, or some wood, or if someone has a skill in something like carpentry, we need their help,” said Shirley Faichney, chair of MCCI.

“The initial clearance of the area will probably need to be done by a company, but if someone has a digger and is willing to help us out, that would be great!”

And the group is also keen to hear from other community groups who would be interested in getting involved in the development of the garden too.

“For us, the development of this space is actually just as important as the end product,” said Shirley.

Since forming just over a year ago, the group has gone from strength to strength with over 200 children now on its Friday night youth group register.

“This is a unique group we have here,” said Shirley. “All of the kids are so motivated to run this project and all of our young volunteers - we have about four who help out every week, and another four who help when they can - have amassed 118 volunteer hours in the past year.”

In November, the group received funding to create an outdoor youth group, and despite a rather wet and windy winter, Shirley and fellow committee member Amanda Davidson, said all of the kids have got stuck in and love getting covered in mud, whether it’s on trips to Letham Glen or along to the beach at Lundin Links.

This enthusiasm has led to their vision for an outdoor growing space, and Shirley said the kids already have plenty of ideas.

“This is all about the kids and what they want. What we think should be in there isn’t necessarily what they want.

“The young people have actually completed their own funding application to the Junior Climate Challenge Fund, and I so hope they get it, because they definitely deserve it.”

It has always been the intention of the group to find a more permanent base - itcurrently meets at the Methilhill and Denbeath Parish Church - and Shirley says she became aware of the site, part of land owned by the Sherwin family, after moving to the area.

Although the initial plan is to lease the ground and create the growing space by this summer, the group is hoping that in the next three years, it can get enough funding to actually buy the plot and build a community cafe and kitchen space.

“The cafe and kitchen would have two purposes - one as a learning space and the other to give us a financial income.

“And it would be for everyone - for older people to come and sit and have a coffee or a place for the older kids to come on lunch times and get something healthy at a good price.”

For now, the focus is on the community learning garden and Shirley hopes to get as many people involved in its creation as possible.

“We want to get as many people involved who will benefit from this space as we can.

“We’ve already had interest from our 16+ kids and the school has said it’s interested in using it too.

“This space will be about nature and nurture. In our minds, early education is too focused on literacy and numeracy and kids are going to school unprepared. They don’t know how to actually learn.”

Amanda added: “I can’t praise the kids enough for all of the hard work they put into this, they’re fantastic.

“Hopefully, this will help to make lasting memories for them.”