Lord-Lieutenant for Berwickshire, Jeanna Swan (below), officially opened the community planting area and polytunnel at the Volunteer Hall in Duns on Saturday 14th October.
The facilities, part of the community garden project run by A Heart for Duns and funded by a Big Lottery Awards for All grant, are open to the people of the town to enjoy.
Volunteers with A Heart for Duns (AHFD) have been working tirelessly for the last few years to try to improve the town.
In April 2015, Candy Philip – now Lead Volunteer with the garden project – wrote to Scottish Borders Council (SBC) asking why a square bed in the public park in Duns, beside the two war memorials, was lying unplanted and neglected.
“The council was considering putting tarmac over the area, but said it would be happy if local people wanted to plant and tend it,” she explained. “This started our ‘garden project’.
“As a member of AHFD, I decided to do this work under the umbrella of the Volunteer Hall and started recruiting other volunteers to help out. We also approached the local SWRI and it was agreed that members of the Rural would do two of the quarters and AHFD would do the other two.”
The group then found out that SBC was backing away from planting up the public borders around town, so agreed to take on the large raised bed at Langtongate and the small one outside the hall.
“We fundraise to buy bedding plants for the public park bed by holding a plant sale in April in the hall,” explained Candy. “I wrote to local businesses hoping that we could get some to sponsor some of the beds. From those letters we raised £350, which enabled us to purchase shrubs and perennials, which we have now planted in the two beds at the top of Castle Street.”
Earlier this year, Candy met representatives from the council to discuss the flower beds along Newtown Street and Currie Street, and they agreed to help out by clearing them of old shrubs and supplying top soil if AHDF would buy, plant up and maintain the old beds.
“As this road is the arterial one through Duns, I felt it was important to ‘lift’ the look of it with a colourful display and hopefully encourage more people to visit Duns and the local shops and cafes,” said Candy.
“We have now planted up two beds at the top of Willis Wynd and have installed a three-tier planter outside the Council offices.
“This planter was bought via the small schemes funding through the council and planted up by the AHFD volunteers.”
The local Rotary was approached in March this year and agreed to fund another bed – this one at the end of Easter Street and Norris Close. It has now been planted with a variety of flowering shrubs.
At the end of 2016, Candy successfully applied for an Awards for All grant from the Big Lottery. This enabled the group to buy a polytunnel and shed (now in position at the side of the hall) to encourage local people to get involved in planting or growing bedding for their own gardens or for around town.
“This is all a work in progress as there are many more neglected areas of Duns which would look more attractive if locals would take on just one part and maintain it,” added Candy.
“We would like more of the three-tier planters along Newtown Street but that will have to be 2018 project!”
The group also received a grant of £1000 from Blackhill Windfarm Community Fund and £250 from Action Earth last year, and this money has helped towards the ongoing costs of the planting.
The official opening by the Lord-Lieutenant was held as part of a two-day event in the Volunteer Hall, which included a produce “swap shop”, gardening demonstrations and children’s activities. The project’s home grown potatoes and onions were used to make stovies, and tea and coffee were on offer.
Those visiting could find out how local people could enjoy working in the community garden, producing plants for their own gardens or for displays around the town.
Main photo: The planting project volunteers out in force at the official opening.