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Welsh Rugby Club Wins RHS Community Garden in National Competition

Forgeside, in Blaenavon, has been named the final winner in the RHS’ Garden Day competition. A patch of wasteland adjoining a rugby pitch will now be transformed into a community garden that residents say will become the ‘beating heart’ of the town.

The RHS is creating four new Community Gardens, one in each of the nations, to share the joy of gardening as part of its celebrations for 2022 RHS Garden Day next Monday (2 May).

Blaenavon in Wales is the forth winner after Huntingdon (England), Paisley (Scotland) and Randalstown (Northern Ireland).

Forgeside Rugby Club applied for the garden to benefit everyone who lives in the old mining town by providing them with a vibrant community hub, an outdoor classroom and a public food-growing space.

Few residents have access to a garden at home so the once rubbish-strewn site will now blossom into a thriving and much-needed space where the whole community can grow flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables and socialise together.

The design of the garden, created by Swansea-based Landscape Architect Victoria Wade, was inspired by the heritage of Blaenavon which was the centre of the industrial revolution in the 19th century and declared a World Heritage Site in 2000.

Rusty, steel planters brimming with fiery red, yellow and orange flowers such as dahlias, helenium and sunflowers will be reminiscent of the blazing furnaces of nearby iron works that were fuelled by coal sourced from local mines like the ‘Big Pit’.

The 300 sqm garden will have a greenhouse for residents to sow plants from seed, and fresh food will be grown all year round to share with foodbanks to help alleviate local poverty.

With seating areas, a pizza oven and dining space, the garden will provide a safe and welcoming area for everyone in the community to meet, relax, garden in and enjoy. It will be used by school children as a learning space and youth group members will benefit from being able to develop horticultural skills.

Geraint Reynolds, Chair of Forgeside Rugby Club, said; “Nothing ever happens in our village so we’re absolutely buzzing – it’s just surreal. We’ve felt so cut off over the last few years from the outside world as well as each other and this garden will become the beating heart of the community.

“Being an old mining village we don’t have gardens at home or a community space where we can all get together. There is a big reliance on foodbanks but now that we can grow fresh food for everyone – we couldn’t be more grateful.

“The garden really will transform daily life so the news has lifted the whole town, you only have to walk down the street now to see the big smiles on people’s faces.”

Cut flowers like dahlia will provide colour and edible flowers such as nasturtiums and calendula will be planted for the community to enjoy throughout the summer.

All of the plants are pollinator-friendly to help boost local wildlife and are able to withstand extreme weather such as high winds, rainfall and frosts that are typical of the area.

Victoria says; “It’s been an honour to design a garden that will benefit such a wonderful community. Success to me will be returning in a few months and seeing lots of people out enjoying themselves in the garden which will be in full bloom.”

Blaenavon was unveiled as the final winner of the competition, which received hundreds of applications, on BBC One’s The One Show on Tuesday 27 April, by presenter Alex Jones.

All four gardens will go on to receive an additional £15,000 over the course of the next three years for investment in the garden and groups’ work with the community.

The new Community Gardens will be central to the RHS celebrating and sharing the joy of gardening on RHS Garden Day (Monday 2 May) which will kick-start National Gardening Week (2-8 May). For more information visit rhs.org.uk.