Development Garden – Food Growing Garden at Green Squirrel, Railway Gardens, Splott, Cardiff

Local Places for Nature is a capital grant scheme, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, that enables communities in Wales to create nature on their doorstep. The programme focusses on community participation, particularly in areas of deprivation, urban and peri-urban environments, and those with little access to nature. Every package provides all the materials, tools and expert support a community needs to create their space for nature. In return, communities must get landowner permission, and commit to maintaining the nature space for at least five years.


Where is the site and why was it an ideal location for a community garden?

Railways Gardens is built on a former derelict playground in Splott.  The waste ground has been transformed into a community hub with portacabins for events and small businesses to use. At a community consultation, Railway Gardens was identified as a suitable location for a much-needed food growing space. The completely concrete location is ideal for accessibility but was in desperate need of habitats and food for wildlife. The project supports residents to develop skills and confidence in food growing; they redistribute surplus produce to the local food co-op and invite groups, schools and organisations from the wider community to get involved.

What was included in the food growing package installed on the site?

  • – Five native fruit trees, plus accessories
  • – Three large, raised beds, soil and compost
  • – Flowering and fruiting shrubs, wildflower plugs, native bulbs, herbs and seeds
  • – 20m of wildflower turf
  • – Greenhouse and secure, metal, tool store
  • – Water butt, compost bin, habitat boxes, bench and trellis
  • – Variety of hand tools to install and maintain garden
  • – Practical help, advice, training and support from Keep Wales Tidy and Social Farms and Gardens to help volunteers plan, install and manage the garden in the future.

How was the local community involved in the site?

Getting input from the local community on their vision for the new garden was vital in the development of the site.

The garden build was phased into smaller projects, for example a bed building day, greenhouse build, shed build, and planting. Each session saw volunteers from the Splott community coming to help. They had the opportunity to meet their neighbours, learn new skills and had the satisfaction of transforming a once derelict, unused space into a thriving community hub.

How does the site engage disadvantaged and under-represented participants?

Railway Gardens is located in a part of Cardiff which is culturally and ethnically diverse. On each build volunteers from many different faiths, ethnicities, physical abilities, cultures and sexual minorities were welcomed and worked together to create the space.

How does the garden enhance the natural space?

Fruit trees, fruit bushes and shrubs were all planted together in raised beds along with edibles such as rhubarb and strawberries.

Ground level beds, designed to help with drainage, made an ideal location for the wildflower turf and habitat boxes were placed along the perimeter walls to create spaces for nature.

What are the longer-term benefits to the community and its residents?

The food development pack has been a catalyst for community cohesion and inclusion. Local people from different ethnicities and backgrounds can walk in from the street and are made to feel instantly welcome in a garden that offers a sense of home – a place where they can talk, learn or to simply be, without judgement.

A variety of clubs such as the regular ‘Growing Group’, ‘Natter with Neighbours’ and ‘The Something Club’ give residents something to look forward to and a chance to meet their community.

The garden offers an opportunity to work outdoors, helping to improve physical wellbeing, reduce social isolation whilst improving people’s happiness through environmental activities.

What are the future plans for the site?

The build helped to connect people with nature, instilled confidence and generated huge excitement and enthusiasm for more environmental improvements.

Funding has already been secured to enhance the site further. Another greenhouse and more wildflower turf has been installed and the group have started to build an outdoor, all-weather classroom to enable them to run more activities and workshops.

Green Squirrel has organised quarterly skill shares and expect more than 60 people to attend each year. The Growing Group are planning a series of seasonal cook up sessions and the garden will be open five days a week for the public to enjoy.