The green fingers of gardeners from a village near Wrexham just got even greener after installing a renewable energy system to help power their allotments – and boil the kettle.
The Holt Community Gardeners have a solar panel and are installing a wind turbine, both feeding a battery system which is also being upgraded, with the help of a grant from the £1.3 million Green Communities Fund.
The £10,000 they have received from the environmental fund, administered by rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd, is also paying for their eco-hub, which houses the battery system, to be refurbished, a new polytunnel and a workshop.
The Fund provides money to kick-start sustainable community-led projects across the rural areas of Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Conwy and is being administered by rural development agency Cadwyn Clwyd.
It is funded by the Welsh Government Rural Communities Rural Development Programme paid for by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), and Welsh Government.
The award-winning Holt Community Gardeners grew out of a chat between retired villagers Bob Campbell and Peter Bostock three years ago and it has thrived in the three years since with the group now over 50 strong.
It runs the village allotments, provides flowers for Holt’s lovely displays in baskets, planters, troughs and even a series of decorative old bikes which have been decked out in blooms and brighten the streets of the village.
Along the way the Gardeners have received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Best in Wales community award, Silver Gilt from Wales in Bloom and been featured in The Guardian newspaper.
Now they’re banking on renewable energy to power them on and Peter said: “The new batteries will power our heated beds which will help our flowers bloom earlier and we’re getting help from Glyndwr University renewable energy students on how to make best use of the system.
“It’s amazing when we started we thought we were simply going to put a few hanging baskets around the village and now we’ve got green energy and this grant will mean we have heated beds right through the winter so we can grow the flowers we have been buying in.
“The wind turbine will be linked into the battery system to trickle charge the battery when the sun isn’t shining.
“That means we can even boil the kettle for a cup of tea.”
Cadwyn Clwyd’s Green Communities Lead Haf Roberts said: “This is very community oriented and very much community led and using green energy means lowering their carbon emissions.
“They are bringing people together to grow their own flowers, fruit and food and they’re doing it in a very sustainable way.
“They’re using sunshine and wind for energy, harvesting water from rainfall and are just full of really good ideas.
“We’re delighted that Holt Community Gardeners are one of the first to benefit from our funding and we can’t wait to see their ideas develop.”
“The message of this project is very much to bring people and nature together because one of the lessons from Covid is how important our green spaces are to our physical and mental well-being.
“That’s something that the whole community in Holt has bought into to help improve and enhance their green spaces, strengthen local biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change.”
Bob Campbell added: “From the very start it was decided that we should be an inclusive group and would garden organically and recycle where possible but that our main focus would always be our community.
“This project will allow us to overhaul our eco hub, create more undercover growing areas and replace our worn-out storage shed and with more battery storage capacity we will have sufficient power to heat our poly tunnels through the crucial winter months to produce the number of plants we need for the village.”
The funding from Cadwyn Clwyd will also go towards three sculptures for an area the local gardeners are working on with the North Wales Wildlife Trust to create a wildflower and sensory garden in the village with an adjacent small woodland.
The Green Communities project aims to deliver the wellbeing goals of the Welsh Government’s Wellbeing and Future Generations Act by focusing on Covid recovery and green growth at a community level.
It is a Welsh Government scheme under the ENRaW Fund (Enabling Natural Resources and Well-being) to support improvements to where people live, work and play.
It covers the rural areas of the four counties where biodiversity projects and green infrastructure can help green the environment and communities.
Cadwyn Clwyd’s partners in the project include Denbighshire County Council, Conwy County Borough Council, Flintshire County Council and Wrexham County Borough Council.
Communities with an idea for a project within the eligible counties can declare an interest by filling in the form available on the Cadwyn Clwyd website at http://cadwynclwyd.co.uk/green-communities/
Since 1995 Cadwyn Clwyd has attracted nearly £30 million in European and domestic funding for North East Wales’s rural areas across sectors such as the environment, food and drink, tourism and rural services to support communities at the grass root level.