Greener Growth project needs help from residents to create 'green corridor' in Bury St Edmunds

By Kevin Hurst Bury Free Press

A call for Bury St Edmunds residents to put their favourite town green spaces on the map – literally – has been made by a Suffolk environmental community interest company.

Greener Growth’s Bury Green Spaces project wants people to fill out a questionnaire to help to create a ‘green corridor’ throughout the town for the benefit of wildlife and residents’ suggestions for the map could also grow future project ideas.

Jo Metcalfe, founder of Greener Growth, said: “We all know outdoor activities have become more important over the last year or so but for us they have always been important because of the impact on health, wellbeing and biodiversity as a whole.

Andy Abbott (Chairman of Southgate Community Partnership), Craig Lee (Project Manager/Director for Greener Growth), Jo Metcalfe (Greener Growth founder), Cllr Pete Thompson and Cllr Richard Rout - outside Southgate Community Centre, one of the areas set to be transformed.Picture by Mecha Morton.

“People that live in this town know their area best, so we need their input on how green spaces near them should be managed or looked at a little differently to help wildlife thrive there.”

The organisation has worked on various projects across the town over the years and when this new idea was presented to the town council most councillors were in support of it, including chairman and mayor, Peter Thompson.

He said: “The important thing for me in this project is that it is community-driven. I love that this will be engaging with people to show what they have found.

“On my ward, Moreton Hall, I have seen people discovering places on their daily walks that they did not know existed before, so I am hoping Jo’s project will bring greater awareness like this and benefit residents’ lives and their mental wellbeing for the better.”

Jo also hopes the project will allow for collaborations with the likes of Bury in Bloom and Grow Bury St Edmunds Community Garden to make the map fully inclusive of all the good work which is being done in the town.

She said: “We want everybody, town councillors, community groups and residents to join forces on this for the benefit of the town.

Article: How Permaculture Impacts Lives In Prisons

Article: How Permaculture Impacts Lives In Prisons

The new winter issue of Permaculture International Magazine has Jo Metcalfe and Greener Growth in a three page feature article. Whoo-hoo!

But you'll have to subscribe to read it!

Mark Humphries, of Greener Growth, looks back at a year of success for the Suffolk community interest company

Host Dominic Holland with staff of Greener Growth CIC, winners of The Green/Environment Award, and Holden Cook, Chief Operating Officer of Save Money Cut Carbon.

Mark Humphries, of Greener Growth, looks back at a year of success for the Suffolk community interest company

Bury Free Press

At the end of our financial year Greener Growth has more than tripled its activity in the last 12 months, and that is with a moderate-sized team and resources.

As a community interest company, that is unusual. Many of our good news stories have already been covered in this newspaper, but we felt it right to bring you up to date with what is going on.

The number of our schools projects have seen a huge increase over the last year: we are passionate about educating children outdoors. Many of the schools have areas that can be used, but do not have the staff or resources to put into their sites; that is where we come in. If the schools did not develop these outdoor learning areas the green spaces and wild places could disappear, and as a company we are working at stopping this as much as possible, helping to create low-maintenance, high-yielding food-producing gardens that are also nature havens.

We are thankful to the local councillors and Bury St Edmunds Town Council for their support which has helped us to cover and survey more wards around the town, looking for green spaces that can be protected and enhanced by community or schools’ kitchen and wildlife gardens . You might have seen us in your area. If you do see us working around the town please stop and say hello.

As we mentioned in our previous column, we are also working in some of the prisons around the region. It is good news that we have been given the go-ahead for our second project at HMP Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire. Be assured that these projects are having a positive affect on the prisoners, and their lifestyles.

There is an element of wholeness in our work that is not only happening in the lives of the group participants in prison and schools that we work in. We often receive feedback from the staff groups in these places about the impact that this work is having on their lives, a boost for staff morale and that is always encouraging to hear.

What is important for us now is to capture all of this evidence, and generate data that further proves the impact of growing food and protecting nature. To do this we are looking to work with a new team member – Hannah Wright, an environmental psychologist. Her book, Outside Time, focuses on farming in the prison estate and has been a source of inspiration to all of us at Greener Growth. Up until the early 1970s, 45 prison farms used to provision the whole prison population across the UK. The percentage of reoffending was very much lower. We can learn a lot from sustainable practices from the past which can inform our future.

Another new initiative in Bury is our work with David Marjoram, of Gusto Pronto, a great believer in wildlife conservation and its impact on children’s education. We have now worked on establishing two new wildlife gardens at The Crown, in Hartest, and The Cadogan, in Ingham. Why not take your children along and see if they can spot the insect hotels, wildlife wigwams, hedgehog boxes, and the bird, bat and owl boxes?

We also work with Cambs Cuisine in Cambridgeshire.

I posted our previous column on to my social media sites and, from that, a greater interest in prison reformation has taken place; and I have been booked for more public speaking engagements. Contact me at [email protected] if you want to book me to talk at your event, or church group, or even if you want to know more about what I do.

Finally – a great team boost – we won the Green / Environment Award at the Bury Free Press Awards event at the Apex. A great chance to get smart (get those leaves out of our hair for once) and network with the great and good from Bury St Edmunds’ business community. What a great town this is – and we are so enjoying helping make it just a little bit greener – with your help!

Thank you all for a fabulous year.

Columnist: My voyage . . . from prison to columnist says Mark Humphries

Columnist: My voyage . . . from prison to columnist says Mark Humphries

Bury Free Press

I am delighted to be asked to write this column for Greener Growth. As regular readers will know Greener Growth are involved in some amazing projects around the local area and further afield. We will use this column to let you all know what is happening at various times in these projects. But first I thought that I had better introduce myself so that you know who it is that puts this together.

I am Mark Humphries and in 1992 I was on a voyage in my career that would take me to some amazing places. This voyage was cut short due to my imprisonment; at this point I don’t want to go into too much detail. What I will tell you was that I committed at least one offence that put people’s lives in danger. I handed myself into the police and admitted the charges straight away. Some years later I found myself back in prison – even though no criminal offences had been committed – and it was here, in 2015, that I met Jo Metcalfe from Greener Growth.

The group were running a project in a local prison. Greener Growth do more than simply teach people to create awesome garden spaces; they show people a whole new way of living alongside your garden. As a former smallholder I wanted to get involved with this group’s project; it would make my time in prison seem a bit more like being at work again. I have to say I enjoyed my whole time I was working on the project.

The project planned and sketched out what the garden was going to look like. We had adopted a piece of land that wasn’t being used. Soon there was a real team effort developing and the one thing that I noticed was the sharing of skills. Many of the men showing each other the skills that they had prior to coming into prison. The roofers and joiners got on with reclaiming a rotting aviary and created a wonderful potting shed; engineering skills and carpenters got on with building and installing the raised beds. I was able to show my peers how to grow food, create compost and the importance of using this natural resource in the raised beds.

I have now retrained as a writer and I have developed new skills that I am putting to great use in a variety of ways: I am writing novels, poetry and articles. I have been commissioned to write a Creative Writing course for men and women in custody, and I am study for a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. So when Greener Growth approached me to help write this column for them I jumped at the chance because it allows me to write, and at the same time to share the news from the projects that this group are helping to deliver.

Greener Growth is growing, says founder/director Jo Metcalfe. As a Community Interest Company focused on therapeutic horticulture, outdoor education and conservation, we helped develop 15 projects last year – which has now grown into 45! Working in East Anglia and Kent for almost 5 years, in schools, prisons and communities, it has been our pleasure to have been developing 7 new partnerships in and around Bury St Edmunds during 2018 so far. The BFP has covered stories around many of these, so we hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the greener growth in your area.

As our delivery in prisons accounts a more unusual element to our work, we thought it would reflect our ethos of creating new opportunities for all, by sharing the writing of our new column with one of our colleagues from our work at one of the local prisons. Mark is an ex-offender who we have known for over 3 years now, from “inside out”, and we are happy to help support his new beginning.