It's been a rollercoaster of a month at Railway Gardens so we wanted to share what's been happening and what you can expect for the coming months.
It was all going so well – construction was ahead of schedule and the site was looking amazing. And then a couple of things went wrong at once: as these have led to some delays with the project we wanted to share them with you so you can know what to expect – but don’t worry we’ve got LOADS of good news to share too!
So what’s been going on? Firstly, while the majority of the contractors we’ve been working with have been amazing (special shout out for Phil of Sherwood Groundworks who is a literal wizard) we have been badly let down by one key contractor who has consistently missed deadlines.
Secondly, through an extremely long, complicated, and technical series of problems relating to the site’s electricity meter (we won’t bore you with the details), we have unsuccessfully been trying to get power to the site for several months. This has been made more challenging as we’re determined to use a renewable energy supplier, and it’s been very frustrating as we’ve been so close a number of times but technical issues have prevented the final stage of work needed.
Finally, like many people, we are have been seriously affected by rising costs so we’ve had to make a lot of tough decisions about what to prioritise.
Are we going to let any of this stop us? Of course not! Railway Gardens has seen many highs and lows since the project began but thanks to the support of our wonderful advisory group, our new growing group and the many other people who help keep this project on track we know we’ll get there.
The main thing we wanted to let everyone know is that the Community Hub is very unlikely to be finished in time for our launch, so we’ll be able to enjoy the outside but not use the inside space until the summer. This isn’t what we were hoping for of course but we hope you’ll understand, and we thank you for your patience with us as we get this part of the site finished.
So how about the good news? You may remember that, shortly before construction was due to begin, we found ourselves with an unexpected and scary funding shortfall due to the huge jump in costs. We have been working to fill this shortfall and we are very pleased to share that we’ve managed to secure:
- A food growing development package from Keep Wales Tidy to build the community growing space.
- Funding from the Community Garden Award to add additional growing space, seating and a green roof.
- Funding from Euroclad for the kitchen appliances.
- A grant from CCHA to build a wildlife pond.
This support has made an enormous difference in bringing the project to life, and we’re very grateful to these organisations.
We’ve also been given a bike rack by Cardiff Council, Dwr Cymru provided us with all the soil improver we needed from the food waste recycling plant in Tremorfa, and we’ve received some brilliant donations from local residents including compost bins and pots. If you’ve got any kitchen or garden equipment you’d like to donate please do get in touch!
Another bit of good news is the launch of the Friends of Railway Gardens scheme. This was something suggested by community members and we’re pleased to say that you can now support the project on a regular basis by choosing a ‘Bee’ or Sunflower’ membership. Membership starts from £3/ month and comes with some fancy perks such as reduced venue hire rates. You can find out more and become a Friend here.
And finally, plans are being developed for the site’s Benthyg – the library of things where you can save money by borrowing all kinds of useful tools and equipment. Benthyg are seeking community members to join a steering group to shape the development of the library. If you would like to get involved and make Splott’s Library of Things amazing please get in touch with Naomi on email@example.com – no skills or experience needed, just an interest in taking part.
So what happens next?
- The Big Welcome – our official launch party – is taking place on June 18th, 1 – 5pm. We’ll be sharing a full line up soon but you can expect music, performance, food and good coffee, activities, stall, theatre and more. See you there!
- We’ll also be sharing some dates soon for volunteer workdays – come along and support the Growing Group (or join the group!) to build a greenhouse, lay wildflower turf, build compost bins and get planting and seed sowing. Sign up to our Volunteer Team if you’d like to know when these are happening.
- We hope to start our regular programme in late June/ early July – this will depend on future delays but we’ll keep you updated! To start off we’ll have a weekly coffee morning, a lunch club led by Splott Community Volunteers, an after school drop in session, Growing Group meetups and two days of affordable co-working a week. We’ll also be running a monthly gardening workshop – come and learn some new skills! Please contact us if you’d like to find out more or lend a hand with any of these, or if you like to use the space for a project or activities.
- And finally, we’re awaiting the outcome of a funding bid to build the outdoor classroom space – fingers crossed!