We're now into our second year of funding from the National Lottery Community Fund - the time has flown by! We've been crunching the numbers and flicking through our photo album from this first year to share the project's achievements and impacts with you.
What better way to show what a year of Railway Gardens looks like than a video! Can you spot yourself?
It’s hard to believe that we kicked off our Lottery funded period with a grey and drizzly Groundbreaking Ceremony all the way back in October 2021 – so much has changed! Railway Gardens has transformed from a derelict site to a colourful and friendly place for everyone to enjoy. We’re not quite there yet with finishing the site structures, and there have been some challenges along the way, but it’s a transformation we’re very proud of.
Our first year in numbers
In our first funded year…
- We welcomed one new staff member, Julia Forrester, who joined the team in the role of Community Coordinator.
- 74 volunteers volunteered on 156 occasions and gave 463 hours of their time.
- 21 regular volunteers completed their full site induction.
- We held 45 events on-site and held or took part in 11 more, including some with our wonderful partners Oasis, NoFit State and Willows High.
- A total of 1,077 people have taken part in activities at Railway Gardens.
- An extra 441 people have taken part in our events out in the community
- 3 new meadows, 1 pond, 4 wildlife habitat boxes and 1 log pile have been created.
What went well?
- 105 people contributed to programme planning to make sure we were focussing on events and workshops that were most useful to local people.
- Despite rain, power cuts, and an embarrassing scheduling clash with a certain Mr Tom Jones our launch event in June, The Big Welcome, went off with a bang! More than 600 of you came to celebrate, dance, sing, eat, play and hang out.
- We learned loads of skills together with a focus on gardening and growing skills: seed saving, taking cuttings, making compost, laying a meadow, planting up a pond.
- You’ve been telling us that you’re using the skills you’ve learn outside of Railway Gardens – fantastic!
- We launched Share It Saturdays to help more people share their skills with others.
- We kicked off some regular meetups: Forces of Nature, the after school club to help more people connect with nature and have fun outdoors and Natter with Neighbours, the weekly Wednesday coffee morning.
- All the wonderful Boneyard container tenants have settled in and brought so much to the site. For example, the Library of Things, Benthyg, now has over 150 useful items to borrow. Thanks to Cardiff Cargo Bikes you can now get your bike serviced here in Splott, or hire a cargo bike for your business. And I think we can all agree that Railway Gardens simply wouldn’t be the same without Things on Toast!
- We’ve been able to offer space for many organisations operating locally to come and share their work, services, and opportunities to get involved. These include Cruse Bereavement, The Birth Partner Project, The Sherman Theatre, Safe Foundation, and local PCSOs for ‘Cuppa with a Copper.’
- Our volunteers are incredible. They have been absolutely key to building the community garden and wildlife areas, site maintenance, and running events and activities. We are continually inspired by their commitment, initiative and generosity.
- And it looks like volunteers are enjoying it too – 100% of those who provided feedback in year 1 said that “I feel my time, energy and skills are valued” and “I would recommend volunteering here to others.”
- The Growing Group have been working together to start shaping the gardens. There are now raised beds, two greenhouses, 3 meadows, a shed, rainwater harvesting and more. They’ve picked squash, tomatoes (the green ones were turned into lovely chutney), and even a few strawberries – not bad for year 1! They also worked incredibly hard to organise a watering rota and keep everything, including a newly laid meadow, alive during the heatwave.
- We’ve seen a pretty big reduction in flytipping in the area outside our gates, and we’ve had very few issues with break ins and vandalism since opening.
What didn't go so well - and why?
- The Hub! After successfully getting the containers onto site last spring the Hub has mostly just sat there, frustrating everyone and limiting our ability to offer space to the community, hold events, and bring in money to the project to keep it running. We were forced to end the contract with the original contractor but things are now moving again and we are on track to be using the Hub by early summer.
- Because we didn’t have the hub (and as Y Nyth, our outdoor learning space, was only built in year 2), it really limited how much of the planned programme we could offer. Based on your input we wanted to offer more workshops around cookery, mending, food waste and other skills, as well as climate focussed workshops on topics such as eco anxiety, but these were challenging to deliver under a gazebo without power, especially as the days started growing shorter.
- The weather was a challenge. The summer’s heatwave, and our classic Welsh wet weather, showed us that we need a lot more shade and shelter on site.
- We haven’t done enough to keep track of who is (and isn’t) taking part, your feedback, and how you feel the project has or hasn’t helped you and the wider community. We struggle a bit with finding enough staff time to do this, and we welcome your suggestions on ways of collecting this kind of information without being intrusive or taking up your time with paperwork or online forms!
- We feel our project advisory group does not yet represent the full diversity of our community. We welcome new members who are students, identify as disabled, are experiencing unemployment or are seeking sanctuary, to help ensure Railway Gardens is a place that works well for everyone. If you’d like to be involved pleased let us know – you can email email@example.com.
- We’re not always able to provide up to date information to help those who take part in the project find other local services and volunteering opportunities that they need.
- We had hoped to hold outdoor fitness classes but this wasn’t something we managed to do.
- Our energy bills, like everyone else’s, are projected to be a lot higher than previously hoped due to rising energy costs.
- We haven’t been able to afford to add any play equipment or elements to the site.
What do we plan to do better in year 2?
As we write this we’re already into our second year of funding, and already quite a lot has changed! The outdoor classroom, Y Nyth, is built and in use, work on the Hub has re-started, and we’ve welcomed two new part time members of staff to the team, Catrin and Sheila. We have temporarily taken over one of the shipping containers, The Green Room, started holding Warm Spaces, begun offering weekend family activities and brought together a Men’s Shed group. But there’s a lot more we want to achieve this year!
By the end of this second year we hope to have the Hub complete and in use, helping to provide more useful space for community use and help bring in money the project needs to keep going. We will have launched a school’s programme and created a virtual community noticeboard to help everyone find the information they need about what’s on in the community.
We will continue to improve the site, adding more shelter, more opportunities for play, more seating, and supporting the Growing Group to plant trees and fill Railway Gardens with plants!
We will work harder to collect the information we need to make sure Railway Gardens is accessible and inclusive to everyone, and we will design a summer and autumn programme that makes use of the Hub to offer the opportunities for everyone to learn the skills you told us are important to you in order to help save money, build a stronger community, and take care of climate and nature.
We also want to work more closely with our local partners to engage more students, refugees and asylum seekers, adults with additional learning needs and people experiencing loneliness and isolation.
We’re also exploring ways to take better care of the staff team’s wellbeing. Year one has been busy, often challenging, and a steep learning curve so in year two we want to make sure everyone on the team is able to balance life and work well.
Want to be part of the Railway Gardens adventure?
There are so many ways to get involved!
- Volunteer with us – your skills and energy are what makes the project work.
- Come to an event – there’s loads to choose from.
- Give us your feedback. You can do so here.
- Book the space; we have different pricing tiers available, including totally free, community rate, and a very affordable standard rate that really helps the project thrive long term.
- Become a Friend of Railway Gardens or make a one off donation
- Help fund us! Support us through your business or CSR scheme, or let us know if you come across any suitable funding sources.
Thank you to our volunteers who give their time and energy so generously.
Thank you to our funders in year one: The National Lottery Community Fund, the Welsh Government Community Facilities Programme, Euroclad, the Asda Foundation, WWF Mobilising Communities Climate Fund and Natural Resources Wales.
Thank you to our community partners and friends, especially Benthyg, Oasis, NoFit State and Child Friendly Cardiff who have been so supportive.