The GIY Glenealy/Ashford/Wicklow (Southeast) group is for gardeners from every level of experience, from beginners to experts. The group meets in members gardens through out the year.
There is no cost to attend and everyone is welcome, no matter if you've never gardened before or have lots of experience.
The group has a section on the national GIY website here: http://www.giyireland.com/group.php?group_id=24
Suzie has been involved mostly as a volunteer in setting up, advising and networking in primary and secondary school gardens and community gardens for over 15 years in Wicklow and has advised people through out the country.
Schools included Wicklow Town's Gaelscoil, Bethlehem National School, Wicklow Educate Together, a number of pre-schools, Avondale Community College in Rathdrum, St Killian's in Bray (who won an Eco-Unesco award with their garden project.) and Colaiste Chill Mhantain: heritage orchard project.
Here is a summary of her development of a iniating group called Wicklow Community Gardens that disbanded once it had met its aims of catalysing the growth of community gardens in the county. Suzie is current working with Greystones Resource centre and the ETB setting up two new community gardens there.
"I formed Wicklow Community Gardening Group as a local Voluntary group with the aim of promoting and establishing community gardens throughout the county. I had done a literature review of community gardens in other countries which suggested that the outcomes for inclusion, food poverty, environmental awareness and community building were excellent.
I approached what was then Wicklow Working Together to ask for support and gave a presentation to the manager and some staff. They were very enthusiastic about the project and offered support by assigning a staff member to help me and putting that task into her work load. (Helen Howes) I also applied to Leader for a training grant. I ran 6 training days bringing people to visit what I believe was county Wicklows only community garden in Baltinglass for inspiration. After these inspiration days, I began to work with any interested parties in different communities as my goal was to make our group redundant by establishing a network of gardens that would help hold the knowledge base we gained and support new gardens.
The group also wanted to be involved directly with the creation on one garden to learn from. This was started in Wicklow Town's Crinion park and I also went to other communities if invited. These were: Wicklow Town- Harbourview, Rathew, Newcastle, Newtownmountkennedy, Valleymount, Arklow, Bray, Greystones, Laragh and Aughrim.
I continued to support these groups with information sharing. I got a great deal of support and information via Helen Howes on how to set up groups, best practice, constitutions, insurance, and funding opportunities and applications, as well as, lots local contacts and allies in other agencies. From the begining the community education officer in the (then VEC) helped us fund a training in the Wicklow Town garden and has since funded me in several other gardens under the ETB. We were able to use the WWT office as a base for photocoping and post etc. The Wicklow Town garden got lots of grants as a result and gardens were formed in many of the communities. After a year or two some gardens needed further help and gardening advice so the group made an another training application to Leader and training's were delivered in Aughrim, Newcastle and Wicklow Town.
All gardens have had participants of all ages, genders, abilities and backgrounds. Wicklow Town had a strong social inclusion focus and had members of the Travelling communty, new Irish, at risk teens, people with disabilities and single parents as participants in the garden or in events based in the garden. People noted that the garden is a non-threatening common ground place to meet and barriers between people were being broken down there.
Interest in where food comes from, food miles, nature, biodiversity, waste, composting and related environmental issues have risen in all participants. Habits have changed. Children's diets have improved and may positive community building outcomes have been noted anecdotally.
We held a number of network events where community members and people from different gardens could meet and exchange their experiences and challenges, such as where they got insurance and how they dealt with vandalism etc.
When WWT became WCP we also decided we could disband as our objectives had been met and gardens were begining to emerge spontaneously elsewhere in the county often inspired by hearing about the postive experiences of others.
Wicklow's Environmental Officer has counted communal garden projects in the county recently coming up with 22.