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Join the Big Dig 16th- 22nd March – get ready for the new growing season

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Feed Bristol

Forget book clubs, boozy nights at the pub or taking in other people’s Amazon deliveries, the best way to get to know your neighbours these days is to head down to your local community veg patch, where you can do a spot of exercise and pick up some dinner at the same time.

And this Saturday is the perfect time to explore the options on your doorstep as hundreds of community gardens in towns and cities across the country will be opening their gates to visitors and giving them a chance to try their hand at everything from planting to pruning.

The Big Dig event organised by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, started last year in six urban centres and has now expanded to 270 gardens in 27 towns and cities from Falkirk to Taunton.

TV gardener Alys Fowler has been supporting Urban Veg in Birmingham which is part of the Big Dig project and says: “If you fancy a go at gardening, but are a little unsure how to start, if you don’t have any dirt of your own or you just want a fun day out meeting new people, now is the time to get involved with your local community growing project. The Big Dig wants to recruit as many volunteers as possible to get the nation growing, so on March 16th community gardens and growing spaces across the country will be opening their doors to welcome you in.”

There’ll be a whole range of activities to try out on the day including planting vegetables, weeding, swapping seeds, sharing produce – and of course drinking tea.

And March 16th might turn out to be just the beginning –you might decide to become a volunteer. If you pick up a Big Dig Volunteer Reward Card and help out in a garden at least six times between now and September you’ll receive a certificate and the chance to win a prize.

Participating towns and cities are: Bath, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bournemouth & Poole, Bradford, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Chippenham & Swindon, Congleton, Coventry, Falkirk, Hastings & St Leonard’s, Ipswich, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Middlesborough, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, Southend on Sea, Totnes, Taunton, and Walsall.

Ten Big Dig highlights:

Birmingham: Martineau Gardens B5 7UG, Saturday 16th March, 1pm to 4pm. Activities at this long- established community garden will include seed-sowing workshops; advice on growing exotic crops such as chickpeas, chillis and coriander; a seed swap and seed bomb-making for children.

Martineau Gardens credit: B Perry

Bristol: Feed Bristol BS16 1HB, Saturday 16th March, 11am to 4pm. Feed Bristol is hosting the annual Bristol Seed Swap in conjunction with the Big Dig – a fantastic opportunity to pick up a diverse selection of seeds, served with live music and hearty soup. There will also be a chance to get involved in food –growing and farm tours.

London: Regent Park Estate Gardening Plots NW1 3ED, Saturday 16th March, 11am to 5.30pm. Help support 27 growing spaces and see 10 different nationalities growing indigenous produce from their own countries. This year-old project won two awards in 2012 – one from Capital Growth and the other from Camden in Bloom. The garden has also received a delegation from South Korea.

Ipswich: Bee Garden- People’s Community Garden IP2 8RE, Saturday 16th March, 10am to 3pm. This is a community apiary and allotment plots which are being developed into a nectar-rich wild flower meadow and wild food growing space surrounded by edible hedges. Visitors will be able to watch the hives, sow wildflowers and foraging plants and help to maintain the pond.

Bee Garden

Liverpool: National Wildflower Centre L16 3NA Friday 22nd March, 10am to 4pm. Help out in the centre’s food-growing areas including the forest permaculture garden and the display cottage gardens. The Centre, set in the Victorian Court Hey Park, helps raise awareness of the importance of wildflowers and encourages people to learn about the creation and management of new wildflower habitats with lots of ideas to copy at home.

Manchester: Debdale Eco Centre M18 7LJ, Saturday 16th March, 10am to 3pm. This eco-centre situated in Manchester’s 130-acre Debdale Park, overlooking Gorton Reservoir, focuses on organic gardening and includes a biodynamic garden. Work on the day will include creating an edible wildlife-friendly hedgerow.

Newcastle: West End Women and Girls’ Centre Elswick,NE4 6SQ Saturday 16th March, 11am to 2pm. This centre was developed to help girls and women who might lack access to land, tools, equipment or knowledge get involved in food-growing. Produce is used in the centre’s community kitchen where women from Bangladesh, Libya, Somalia and Afghanistan have contributed recipes from their own cultures. Activities will include planting a tree in Elswick Park to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee.

West End Women and Girls’ Centre

Nottingham: Arkwright Meadows Community Garden NG2 2HZ Saturday 16th March, 11am to 1pm. This garden was created to grow and sell organic fruit and vegetables and there is also a Tandoor oven for bread-making. Tools will be provided for seed-sowing and digging and refreshments too!

Arkwright Meadows Community Garden

Oxford: Cultivate OX14 4QZ.Saturday 16th March,10am to 4pm Work at this local food cooperative will include erecting a poly-tunnel, and digging a pond to help attract frogs. Meanwhile at OxGrow OX1 4PA, 12 to 4pm Oxford’s edible garden, volunteers can help make a greenhouse out of plastic bottles or build an outdoor pizza oven

Sheffield: Parkwood Springs Forest Garden S58XB. Saturday 16th March 11am to 2pm Europe’s largest inner- city, green space where wild lupins bloom, rabbits run and sparrowhawks hover will be hosting activities including  planting and trimming back fruit bushes and trees and sharing amazing views across the city of Sheffield.

Parkwood Springs Forest Garden

 To find out further details and what is happening in your area visit www.bigdig.org.uk

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