When the corona virus pandemic hit, we had to close the garden to volunteers, visitors and schools but a skeleton staff began growing as much food as possible to supply the Bevy community pub’s meals on wheels service, which has delivered over 5,000 meals locally, including to some of our volunteers.

Rhubarb, runner beans, broad beans, french beans, onions, potatoes, courgettes, shallots, peas, black and red currants, lettuce and rocket have been used in meals or delivered directly to people so they can cook with fresh, locally produced, organic food.

But as lockdown eased, we knew that the garden had a massive role to play in people’s mental health. Getting outdoors, getting some fresh air in a safe and secure environment has been essential especially for our volunteers that live alone. While we can’t take on any new volunteers at the moment we have been able to offer small groups of our regulars a couple of hours early evening to do some watering, weeding, harvesting – or just to enjoy being at the garden. Long term supporter Elaine said “Thanks, Susie for spending so much time with me. It was a lovely evening and coming back on the bus I felt so well, it did me a lot of good. Thank goodness the weather held out – it was very pleasant. One of my nicest days out this year.”

Thanks to funding from the Sussex Crisis Fund we helped supply plants and seeds for nearly 100 growing kits delivered to Moulsecoomb Primary School pupils and worked with the school to identify families who don’t have a garden so they could come and have some time outside. Jools a TA at the school told us “To see M and his brother that engaged was both heartwarming and heartbreaking – if school was like that M would have no ‘problems’ whatsoever. He was just so enthusiastic; focused and curious, there was just nothing he didn’t love about working with Pat. Is it possible a session like that could be a regular part of M’s school week? I’d do whatever I could to support it and so would Mum I’m sure. It would be one heck of a carrot too, for the rest of his school week!

We have also been organising informal drop-ins for Homewood pupils, hoping to build on these relationships in September.

Throughout lockdown our cooks Carly and Jo have been working at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy helping deliver meals on wheels to the most vulnerable – not just for families that go to the school but anyone in the local community. While that work has been scaled down Carly has been working with pupils who are back at school while Pat came out of furlough to deliver some bushcraft sessions to students.

Thanks to planning gain money from the Preston Barracks development our pizza oven has been totally rebuilt and now has a new roof. We also have running water to our compost loo sink!

Thanks once again to those lovely people at The Pebble Trust we are able to run a free summer scheme for Moulsecoomb Primary pupils throughout August to give families some respite.

Working together with numerous different organisations we know the garden has a massive part to play in whatever the future brings.