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Former serviceman praises Transtition Town Forres Community Garden for lifting his spirits

December 5, 2021


Steve Ferris (right) is joined by Billy Hardie, Joanna Legard and Daphne Francis at the Forres Community Gardens. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Steve Ferris (right) is joined by Billy Hardie, Joanna Legard and Daphne Francis at the Forres Community Gardens. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

A LOCAL allotment helped a former RAF serviceman adjust to civilian life after his retirement.

Steve Ferris, of Drumduan Road, got involved with Transition Town Forres (TTF) in 2009 when he encouraged 1st Kinloss Scout Group to use the community garden at its Bogton Road site but soon started his own plot then became chairman of TTF’s gardening group in 2011, running it for a further two years.

He said: “I introduced the Beaver colony I run to growing and eating fresh produce. We also planted daffodils that October to use for Mother’s Day pots in March. From when I started to 2012, I was a regular in the RAF, deploying as an aircraft captain for months at a time. During this period, the garden was a place to unwind. The closure of RAF Kinloss and my retirement in 2013 left me struggling. I didn’t feel up to remaining chairman of the garden group but the plot remained a place of solace.”

TTF’s Community Garden is made up of pods; shared spaces for around four people each. There are also polytunnels where gardeners can grow from seed and take cuttings. Gardeners take part in workdays around once-a-month, when tasks include moving items, painting, tending to outdoor plants, organising and freshening up areas.

TTF ask that no chemicals are used on the ground including fertilisers or pesticides. Vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers are grown and attendees also look after bees. Community composting and rain water harvesting is encouraged, and many members share tools, seeds and knowledge, and practical help.

“The gardeners are a community,” said Steve. “During work days we clear the common areas and everyone mucks in, working together.”

The community gardens opened in April 2009, with an initial 11-year lease from Moray Council, on 2.29 acres of Common Good land previously leased to Elm Nurseries. The site was developed as part of the wider TTF project, which in 2009 received support from the Scottish Government`s Climate Challenge fund, which enabled the initial land lease to be paid, provision of a small tractor for ground conversion, allotment huts, conversion of a communal building, and recruitment of staff and funding for environmental education courses. The lease is provided for Forres area residents to grow organic fruit and vegetables. The aim of the gardens is to be a working example of a low carbon lifestyle, energy descent, community involvement by volunteers, healthy eating and local food sustainability.

Steve said: “There is an impression that TTF and the gardens are directly connected with the Findhorn Foundation. That is not the case now. The garden group is made up of a good cross section of the Forres community. We have families with young children, 80-plus year olds and everyone in between, enhancing social and inter-generational interaction.

“It’s a very eclectic community, with a common love for organic gardening.

“We have people who have been gardening for years and others who are new to it starting each year.”

When initial funding expired, the gardens became financially self sustaining. A quarter section of a pod is charged at £25 per year, and a polytunnels bay is £10 per annum. Gardeners are welcome to use TTF’s Environmental Education and Healthy Living Centre for refreshments, shelter, a gardening library, and access to educational courses and cooking workshops. The gardens are run by a committee of volunteers elected at an AGM in the autumn.

“Forres is very lucky to have TTF and the community gardens,” said Steve. “Their projects are right for Forres, the country and the planet.”

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