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Home  >  Features  >  Gifts of the land


Blackhall's Growing
Blackhall's Growing

Gifts of the land

Wednesday October 24 2018

In the season of harvest, Jackie Macadam discovers a number of churches making a difference in their communities through creative use of their outdoor space.


Youth Cafés and clubs; lunch groups for the elderly; groups designed to help people with dementia and their carers; children’s playgroups and crèches for immigrants or refugees and their children; summer holiday clubs – they’re all taking place in church halls and rooms the length and breadth
 of Scotland.

Sometimes though, something special 
is created, using imagination, willpower and determination, that draws its strength from the land.

‘Blackhill’s Growing’ is based at St Paul’s Church in Provanmill, Glasgow.

“‘Blackhill’s Growing’ is a very successful community growing project which is now mid-way through its third growing season,” says Melanie Hall, Community Growing and Cooking Co-ordinator with St Paul’s Youth Forum.

“We have three poly-tunnels, an orchard, large chicken coop where we keep a flock of chickens for eggs, lots of raised beds, a coop where we hope to be raising turkeys for our community Christmas dinner, and an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven with picnic tables.

“We grow a variety of fruit, veg, herbs and flowers which are sold for donation, used in our community meals and as part of various community cooking activities at St Paul’s, attended by a wide variety of local people in our community.

“We work with our local nursery, run workshops to build confidence in growing and have an annual Tattie Bag competition where we provide people with all the equipment to grow potatoes in their own gardens. Our emphasis is on helping local people to grow their own food and addressing local food insecurity in a dignified way.”

Kilmacolm Old Kirk, in the Presbytery of Greenock and Paisley, are involved in helping create a Pilgrim Pathway over the church’s land.

Part of the idea behind the plan is so that the area and the woodlands around it, will be used by youth groups locally to use as an educational resource.

Stuart Wilson, Group Scout leader, 42nd Greenock and District and 1st Kilmacolm Scout Group, says the Scouts are right behind the idea – and keen to help it become a reality.

“Working in harmony with nature, learning about the environment and community involvement are at the heart of the Balanced Programme for Scouting, ” says Stuart.

“At each section the young people undertake age-specific challenges aimed towards achieving a Chief Scout Award. The possibilities are limitless, and that’s before we consider that the Group would just like to use it as an open community space for reflection and leisure.

“It is our hope that Kilmacolm Scout Group can play a major part in this project in terms of being able to use it, help maintain it and learn from it. It will truly have something for all ages and will build and strengthen relationships between the Group and the local community.

“We are very excited about the possibility of a Pilgrimage Pathway being built at
the Old Kirk Manse and look forward to it going ahead.”

The project will create a pilgrimage pathway for the public in Kilmacolm Old Kirk’s woodland glebe – an area of about two acres. The plan 
is to create a pathway in the church’s woodland area with points of interest for reflection and meditation within the beautiful woodland setting.

The founding legend of the village of Kilmacolm is that the great ancient saints of the West of Scotland – St Mungo and St Columba – met and exchanged pastoral staffs by the banks of the River Gillburn. A bridge will be created across the Gillburn, which runs through the woodland, with one end representing St Mungo and the other St Columba, to commemorate their historic meeting.

Helensburgh Parish Church linked with Rhu and Shandon have been working with recovery group ‘Welcome In’, set up under the umbrella of national charity Addaction.

Auxilliary Minister, the Rev Tina Kemp said: “Welcome In is a safe space for people in the community experiencing addiction and mental health issues, and loneliness, to come and relax, eat and chat.

“Earlier this year some of the group expressed a desire to make use of the church’s extensive gardens.

“Several of them put in the hard work of preparing the ground, and planted a range of veg including potatoes, carrots, radishes, courgettes, strawberries, tomatoes and onions which are now thriving. They also planted sunflowers and made a raised flowerbed out of planks of wood.

“Much of the veg is now ready to harvest and is being given away to anyone who wants it.”

Fiona Lockhart, Welcome In acting chairperson, says: “Quite a few of our members got involved and many of them love to come and look at the garden. It’s well known that gardening and being outdoors is therapeutic so this has been great for us.”