Kymin Community Gardens ~ Background
Tracing our Roots
On March 12 2021, we planted a community orchard at the Kymin. We had some fruit trees from the Keep Wales Tidy ‘Local Places for Nature’ small food garden pack that we installed with the Friends of Golden Gates park. We contacted the Friends of the Kymin to see if they’d be interested in planting them there. They were! We then got some more trees from Stephen Watts at Coed Hills, through the Orchards for Wales project with Social Farms and Gardens, Eggseeds and LLanrumney Hall Community Trust. The Friends had a couple more trees, and before we new it, we were planting. I remember when Vaida and Barbaro brought the trees to my garden. I had no idea at that moment how far our Kymin endeavours would reach.
Now, as it the way of things, this all happened because of some serendipitous conversations. I met Elen Robert on Saturday 19 November 2019 at the Sustainable Places Research Institute’s ‘Learning from the Grassroots’ event at Cathays Community Centre. I’d come to know about this event through my involvement with Poppy Nicholl’s Global Gardens and attended with my Share Cardiff project hat on.
Later, in February 2021, I happened to be talking with Elen about Penarth Town Council cutting down the hedge on Pembroke Terrace, and mentioned that Eurgain and I had been talking with Jon G at The Vale about possibly planting the fruit trees at The Kymin. Jon had been trying to get hold of the Chair of the Friends, but no reply so far. I hadn’t realised that Elen was involved with the Friends too. She said the Chair was Richard Parry, and I knew Richard from the Eden Communities ‘Oh What a Year!’ event that Mike and I had taken part in in December 2019, we shared a good conversation on the train journey home. Things were falling in to place. After this conversation with Elen, I walked over to Richard’s house and tapped on his window (much better than email). He sang me a song, and that was the beginning of the community orchard.
Back to March 2021. Eurgain and I had at that time had two garden packs from KWT. One at fruit garden at Golden Gates, the other, a wildlife garden, was planted on Stanwell Crescent. KWT invited us to apply for the bigger development pack. We put some feelers out into the world to see where we could install this bigger garden, nothing was clear at that time. so we sat with it.
Meanwhile, things we hotting up at The Kymin. The Vale of Glamorgan Council had put out a tender process looking for a suitable organisation to take on The Kymin as a commercial enterprise. The community were up in arms about this, it was a hot topic in town. This former community venue, which had been managed by Penarth Town Council (PTC) for years, could be turned into a hotel or restaurant, there were fears. As it happened, GPG had links with the person who was putting together the bid for this tender for PTC. So, as is my thing, my friend Dawn and I wrote an open letter on the future of the Kymin.
I care about this place. My memory of it runs far back to when I was a small child and we would come for a day trip out to Penarth (before they built the road bridge, the only way you could get to Penarth was along Penarth Road). We made these, what seemed like long journeys then, often. I distinctly remember turning the corner on the big hill and catching site of this pretty pink house with a long driveway in and wondering what it was. Later, when I’d moved to Penarth, I’d enjoyed the music and food festivals that used to be held there. I went to a yoga class there, and when it came to choosing a venue for our wedding in 2017, this was the place for us.
My connection to this place runs deep. I expect Richard and Elen and the other Friends have a similar deep connection. Richard had organised a meeting in Foxys Deli in response to the changes that were happening there in spring 2019. PTC had failed in their application for a community asset transfer, and the future was uncertain. This meeting, in early 2019, sparked the beginning of The Friends of the Kymin.
Fast forward to autumn 2021, with word in the news that the Vale had decided to keep The Kymin and ensure it would remain open for the community, I spotted an opportunity. On 1st October 2021, I emailed Elen and Richard.
Dear Richard and Elen
Hope all is well and you’re keeping warm with the change of season now.
I had a bit of an idea. For a while now Eurgain and I have been trying to think of a place where we could create a community garden with a large development pack from Keep Wales Tidy. It contains raised beds, a greenhouse and loads of plants and trees.
It’s dawned on me that now the Kymin seems to be staying in the Vales hands, it could be possible to create a community garden on the upper boules court.
What are your thoughts about that idea? Here’s a link to the KWT info. https://www.keepwalestidy.cymru/pages/category/nature-development I thought it would be good to have a food growing pack to complement the orchard.
Look forward to hearing from you.
And so it began. After a positive response, on Friday 8th October, Eurgain and I met Richard, Pretty, Elen and Jon G to talk about the possibility of setting up a community garden. The Friends had begun a community mapping initiative to begin embracing local knowledge of the site, naming the different areas on the beautifully hand drawn map that Richard had created.
We set up a Whatsapp Group, Kymin Community Garden, and I set to work seeing about securing the garden pack. We really did think we would be looking at starting proper in the spring. On Tuesday 12 October 2021 I thought I’d just give KWT a ring to see the lay of the land in terms of applying for the pack. I spoke to Louise Tambini, she said the deadline for applications was Friday, and she had no idea if there would be more packs available in the spring. WWWHHHHAAAATTTT!
Three days. That’s all we had. I set to work, 4 am starts for three days, but together we did it. We got the application in by Friday 15 October. It was all a bit of a whirlwind. The Friends were always keen to take things slow. Seems the universe had other ideas.
On 1 November 2021, we heard that we had been successful in our application for the food growing pack. Richard said “this is brilliant because it sparks a story about action, opportunities, engagement, involvements and dialogue.”
Richard set out in earnest with putting together a press release, we knew how vital it was to engage the community in this, after everything that had happened, we knew there would be much community interest.
On Saturday 4 December, we held our first Community morning at The Kymin.
And so it begins. I’ll end my story here for now. Today, as I write, on Wednesday 16 February 2022, we are about half way through installing the food growing pack. We have had two well attended community mornings. We have a new WhatsApp group for Kymin Volunteers (opened on 2 Feb 2022), which got 23 members within a few days. I’m so grateful to all the local people who got involved and made this happen.