Advertisement Feature with the Aviva Community Fund

The other week my eldest daughter and I walked through Glasgow’s West End. We reached the Botanic Gardens – normally the furthest point I would venture from Byres Road – but this time we kept walking along Queen Margaret Drive, crossing the River Kelvin. After passing an array of cosy coffee shops, within a few minutes we reached Kelbourne St, an unassuming residential city street, where a kid’s playpark sits nestled to a derelict site, offering no indication of what lay ahead.

We walked along Kelbourne St, wondering if we had come to the right place. Just as we were about to turn around we came across a fence of brightly painted characters and a sea of bunting, indicating we had indeed come to right place – North Kelvin Meadow.

tyre swing

I’d come to visit North Kelvin Meadow to see firsthand how the Aviva Community Fund is helping to build stronger and more resilient communities through their funding and ‘more than money’ support for groups up and down the country.

I’m no stranger to Glasgow – I grew up on the west coast, only a train ride away, and spent most of my teenage weekends in this fair city.  This made it a real delight, some decades later, to come across a delightful corner of community greenspace in Glasgow that had hitherto gone under my radar.

maze

North Kelvin Meadow, an entirely volunteer-led community garden and meadow, have just successfully secured £5000 in funding from the Aviva Community Fund to help support their community growing scheme.

The money granted to the Meadow has allowed the band of volunteers to buy new tools, roses to create a briar to help support local wildlife, and for some new raised beds for community vegetable growing to replace the rotting ones.  The group receives no other funding and does not charge individuals or groups for use of the Meadow.  This makes the Aviva Community Fund  a real life-line for volunteer-led groups, such as North Kelvin Meadow, with the funding and further guidance making a huge difference.

The Aviva Community Fund allows community groups to enter in one of three categories (Health & Wellbeing, Environment or Skills for Life) for a chance to secure up to £1,000-£25,000 in funding. The fund also helps communities’ future proof themselves ensuring they are ready for whatever tomorrow may throw at them. Their support includes extensive toolkits, helping local groups to publicise themselves and raise awareness of the work they do.

whisky barrel beds

I spent some time exploring North Kelvin Meadow’s 1.4 hectare space, taking some photos and then had a lovely chat with Douglas, one of the volunteer gardeners, as well as some of the other local people who come together to use the space.

Douglas explained that the Meadow was a former playing field that had long laid abandoned and become a dumping ground for rubbish.   Some signs of its former life as a playing field are visible – with some metal rigs still in place – but apart from that, there are no other signs that this Meadow has been anything but a well-loved and used community space.  Douglas highlighted the fact that where the local community once organized litter picks to clean up the area, now there is no need for such activities as the Meadow is treated with the pride and respect it deserves.  The site is absolutely pristine – a real testament to the community pride the area instills.

Within the Meadow there is a bee-hive, community vegetable growing plots, wildlife gardens, a maze for kids, a fire pit, and more.  Whilst it was still winter when I visited (it had snowed the day before my visit), and a lot of the trees and beds were bare, we spotted squirrels scurrying up trees and a host of bees.  I’d love to make a return visit in summer to see the place in full bloom!

childrens wood Glasgow

Right next to North Kelvin Meadow is the Children’s Wood – a great site run by a separate charity that really complements the Meadow.  The Wood has a range of structured and unstructured play areas for kids – including mud kitchens, a willow tent, swings, and more.  The space is popular with families, as well as local nursery and school groups who all make regular outings to play there.

north kelvin meadow

Returning to the Meadow, Douglas, and a group of volunteers – Mike, John, and Tara – were planting the roses whilst I was there – which was in fact made possible by the Aviva Community Fund.  They explained that in an area dominated by tenement flats, with no garden space, and in a city with huge allotment waiting lists, the Meadow acts as a great community spot that helps tackle social isolation.

The volunteers regularly come for some fresh air, gentle exercise and the chance to garden and grow, but by far the social aspect – the chance to meet other community members, have a chat, drink tea from flasks and share some biscuits – is the main draw.

upcycled wheelbarrow

It’s clear that the Aviva Community Fund is going to make a big difference to North Kelvin Meadow.  They have been operating on a shoestring for over 10 years.  This has led them to be creative – old bathtubs and broken wheelbarrows have been used as planters – but there’s only so much that can be done on no money and I can’t wait to visit again to see how the Aviva Community Fund helps them grow.