Wilder Eastney

In Summer 2021 the Climate Board put a short article in PCC’s Flagship magazine inviting residents to get in touch if they wanted to ‘transform an unloved bit of land’ near them.

Community + nature = joy

The idea was to encourage residents to take more ownership of green spaces near them and make them more wildlife friendly: perhaps adding fruit trees, edible plants, wildflowers, bird boxes, etc. This would tackle the biodiversity crisis at the same time as the climate emergency, and also, we hoped, foster community and better relationships with the natural world.

Shortly afterwards a group of residents near Eastney got in touch and asked if they could enhance a one acre site called Marine Court Green, opposite the Coffee Cup cafe.

Ourselves and Andy Ames from HIWWT met up with them and helped formulate a plan for the site. The group liaised with Adrian Rozier, head of parks at PCC, and eventually permission was given to implement their plan.

September saw the first community gardening event by the group who decided to call themselves Wilder Eastney.

On the day, about 30 to 40 people came together to plant bluebells and snowdrops under the trees, and help build and fill two raised beds with soil and herbs and other sensory plants.

There were kid activities, food to share, visioning workshops, and some wonderful drumming and singing.

This was a big community effort: the ward councillors gave their blessing and £850 in CIL money, Forgotten Veterans UK provided the muscle and know how to build the raised beds, B&Q and TJ Waste provided the soil and tools, and Waterfront Garden Centre and Southsea Greenhouse donated plants and cuttings. In addition to this Wilko and Morrisons donated compost, and seeds, Sustrans did workshops, and Hampshire and IoW Wildlife Trust offered their expertise and birdbox building skills.

The next event was in December where the group planted a number of dwarf fruit trees (cherry, apple, plum and pear), donated by Charles Dickens Community Orchard (CDCO).

The idea was that trees would provide blossom in the spring for bees and butterflies and fruits in the autumn for residents and wildlife.

Residents were invited to (informally) adopt a tree and dedicate it to a loved one, which was particularly poignant given the many bereavements from Covid in the previous 18 months.

Tracey Jones from the Stacey Centre and Dennis David from CDCO gave instruction on how to plant and stake the trees, and will continue to educate the residents about how to look after them going forward.

The day was also designed as a celebration of the planting and to bring people together so featured wassailing and morris dancing.

Since then we have invited Richard Jones, the PCC ecologist and Pete, the PCC ranger for Eastney Foreshore, to the site and got their advice on how best to boost biodiversity

As a result of their advice we have mulched the trees and asked the Parks Department to relax the mowing regime around the borders of the site.

From April the planters started buzzing with insect life and blooming with poppies, cornflowers, thyme, lavender and much else besides. Some of the orchard trees are fruiting already with apples, damsons and plums.

We have also instigated a watering rota, because in this heatwave we have been advised that the trees would likely die.

Finally we invited Dr. Heather Rumble, a specialist in Green Infrastructure, to visit the site and she is going to map the biodiversity at the site, alongside our volunteers, as part of an ongoing project.

The story of Wilder Eastney so far has been a wonderful example of different organisations working together, with a group of residents at the heart of the project.

If you would like to be involved in Wilder Eastney email wildereastney@gmail.com.

Or if you’d like help to set up a similar group that can enhance green spaces where you live, then please email info@portsmouthclimateaction.org.uk.