A new edible garden is set to grow in the grounds of St. Mary, Greenhithe, with construction of its first raised bed marking the project’s launch this week.

The project is being funded through the Ebbsfleet Garden City Healthy New Town Programme, which is a partnership between Ebbsfleet Development Corporation and Dartford Gravesham and Swanley CCG (clinical commissioning group), with support from NHS England as part of a national innovation pilot, which has helped supply the tools, building supplies and other equipment needed to get the project going.

It follows the first successful project in Northfleet.

All the fruit and vegetables grown will be given out freely around the town to help encourage healthy eating. Strawberries will be planted along the road side for passers-by to pick and there are even plans to keep rescue chickens to supply fresh, local eggs.

Rev Carol Avery, local vicar and member of the Edible Garden Project for Swanscombe & Greenhithe board said that the initiative was an example of what can happen when you build good relationships “We’re delighted and honoured to be able to host the edible garden within the grounds of St. Mary’s. This project has come about because of positive relationships; between the local Greenhithe and Swanscombe Town Council, the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, Kent County Council and local firm Jackson Civil Engineering, who have supplied some of the building materials and top soil.”

She continued: “It will really be a joint enterprise and a huge community effort, so we’re very excited to see how it will grow – literally – over time!”

Through the church’s regular community cafe and its Mary’s Child project, the church comes into contact with many people who are suffering with mental health issues or who are socially isolated.

The hope is to involve these people in the garden too to improve self-esteem, with a planned a sensory area, designed to provide a beautiful and relaxing space for people as well.

Working closely with local volunteers, Knockhall Primary School, the new Cherry Orchard Primary Academy in Ebbsfleet and the Swanscombe & Greenhithe Allotment & Gardens Association, project coordinator and local councillor and resident, Sue Butterfill, said that she hoped the garden would have a broad impact:
“It’s about engaging the local community to grow fruit and vegetables, to get active and to share things with the wider community. It’s about education too and tying in with the National Curriculum so we get everyone thinking about how to be more creative with their cooking.

“So this is just the beginning of something creative!”

Kevin McGeough, Director, Ebbsfleet Garden City, Healthy New Town Programme said: “We are delighted to be able to support the enthusiasm and ambition of the local people in Swanscombe and Greenhithe to develop their own community garden as part of the Edible Ebbsfleet initiative. We are excited to join with volunteers to develop a programme of growing and education in the area to help raise awareness about the benefits of healthy eating.

He continued: “St. Mary’s Garden will act as a beacon of what can be achieved when local people come together with determination and joint ambition and will join a network of edible gardens across the wider Ebbsfleet Garden City area.”