Growing gains

Grow 73, a charity based in Rutherglen, works to encourage local growing, increase biodiversity, and improve the local environment. The hub of their efforts is the impressive community garden at Overtoun Park, but an ambitious project to create a green pollinator pathway from Rutherglen train station through to Cathkin Braes shows they have bigger plans yet. 

The group, who featured recently on BBC’s Countryfile programme,  are named after their G73 postcode in Rutherglen, which lies just a few miles south-east of Glasgow’s busy city centre. Established in 2015 by Eugine Aroutcheff, who came to Scotland from France around 28 years ago, and Lynn Semple the group started with the modest aim of looking for a place to grow fruit and vegetables.

They picked a good time to pursue that goal. In 2015 the Scottish Parliament had passed a Community Empowerment Act enabling communities to take over plots of dis-used land. Grow 73 used the Act to get a 15-year lease for three dis-used bowling greens in the park in addition to five areas they were already working on.

It is fair to say that Grow 73 have seized the opportunities that expansion has offered with some style.  Their plans now include a pond, more raised beds, community hub, poly tunnels and converting a small woodland into a natural play area. One of the greens will be kept as a wildlife area.

If their initial focus was a desire to grow food, it is fair to say that they are now making great strides in providing for biodiversity and in particular pollinators. Helped by the enthusiastic Rutherglen residents (who shifted 9 tonnes of compost when the project got underway) they are moving on from conventional growing plots, to providing a series of planters as ‘stepping stones’ for pollinators linking Rutherglen to Cathkin.

This will be achieved through their Rutherglen Network, which joins an array of containers and gardens into a ‘super highway’ for bees, or if you prefer a Bee-Line. Given that habitat loss and fragmentation are key challenges which our pollinators face this is a welcome approach. 

Each container has a selection of nectar-rich plants that are potentially a wonderful boost for pollinators. The group have deliberately left empty spaces in between the plants, so that the community can add their own plants to the planters. And there was help on hand to ensure that local planting was possible.

Eugenie, and her army of volunteers, put together kits of compost, potato seeds, flower seeds and reused coffee sacks during the pandemic, then delivered them to local homes in a stunning display of determination. The aim was to involve the people of Rutherglen in making these containers great for pollinators and a source of local pride. Wherever possible Grow 73 have worked with local groups and nurseries to ensure local buy-in to all that they do. Working in partnership has been a key principle for the charity.

And how they succeeded. By the time lockdown ended they could reflect on having delivered a staggering 10 tonnes of 650 individual growing kits to eager residents.   Now take a walk through Rutherglen and Burnside and you will see a range of pollinator friendly flowers popping up domestic gardens, containers, and even creatively planted old whisky barrels.  

Creating a green oasis required a strong belief and clear vision. The burgh of Rutherglen is steeped in political and industrial history, but since the final demise of industries as diverse as textiles, coalmining and chemical production the burgh has endured a legacy of post-industrial decline. Overtoun Park is in fact named after industrialist Lord Overtoun, who gifted the land on which the park was laid out in 1907. Although Lord Overtoun’s reputation was tainted by the discovery over the past 30 years of extensive local chromium dumping.

During the coronavirus crises, which forced people to stay local, there was a surge in interest in neighbourhood greenspaces. The charity in helping people of all ages and abilities to grow their own produce has fostered an appreciation of enjoying the outdoors, promoted leading more sustainable lives, and supported local biodiversity. What’s more, through these shared gardening activities and environmental improvements Grow 73 contributed significantly to improving the health and well-being of the local community whilst making Rutherglen a greener place. So much so that the aim is to improve biological recording by logging the insects (especially pollinators) and wildflower in the area.

Grow 73 have achieved a huge amount in a short space of time, but they won’t rest on their laurels. You get the sense that their ambitious plans are just the beginning of a story that could run for some time, and that’s great news for our vital pollinating insects and local residents.

Find out more:

Grow 73 Website 

Facebook =  www.facebook.com/Grow73/ 

Twitter =   //twitter.com/grow73 

On the Keep Scotland Beautiful website