The founder of a community allotment has praised the benefits of gardening and encouraged others to get involved, as her Neilston project reaches its first birthday.

After a disused plot of land on Craig Road became overgrown and plagued by fly-tipping, local resident Donna Strathearn had the idea to turn the space into a community allotment.

“Myself and another neighbour had been looking after the plot,” she said, “cutting the grass and tidying up, picking up litter and making sure nobody’s dumping on it.”

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Having heard about East Renfrewshire Council’s desire to establish more community allotments in the area, Donna contacted the local authority to see if they would let her use the land to officially set one up.

“We said to them ‘we’re already looking after this, you’re not maintaining it - would it be alright if we started using it to grow on?’ And the council said ‘yeah, great, take it.’ So we did!”

Donna and her fellow gardeners initially got the project underway a year ago without financial support - “absolutely not a coin” in Donna’s words.

“It was basically our own money,” she said, “myself and a neighbour across the road, buying odd things, checking through Gumtree and Facebook marketplace for anything free we could use. Beg, borrow and pilfer was the idea!”

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After securing funding through a council initiative, the group were able to purchase some much-needed materials, and the allotment has come on leaps and bounds since, with a wide range of fruits, vegetables and flowers now growing.

Although Donna is an experienced gardener, the emphasis of the allotment is very much on the social and the communal.

“We’re all about promoting wellbeing and building friendships,” said Donna. “If you just want to come down and have a blether, that’s absolutely fine.”

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She also said that a number of the people involved have found that gardening has helped with mental and physical health issues - including her own.

“I’m recovering from a life-threatening brain tumour,” she said. “We don’t have the kind of help and support I need in the area, but I’m doing this to show that you can help yourself, and help others get better.

“I was extremely paralysed down one side, and I’m starting to build up the muscle again in that side. And that’s sheerly through having to move bark!

“I have to use a wheelchair sometimes, and some of the other people that come down have severe disabilities, but we’ve laid everything out so that wheelchair users can get around.

“And other people have found that it’s helped their mental health. If you come down because you just want a blether, or you’ve had a bad day, or things are getting on top of you - that’s fine. There’s somebody there to listen.”

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Having seen first-hand how the allotment has improved people’s lives, Donna is highly encouraging of anybody interested in getting involved.

“It’s all very laid back and friendly,” she said, stressing that absolutely no prior knowledge of gardening is required.

“It’s been so good for the people who are going down there, and we just want other people to benefit the way we’re benefitting.”

Neilston Allotment is situated between Craig Road and Loanfoot Avenue, and people are encouraged to either “pop in and say hello” or get in touch via the Facebook page, or by emailing Donna at:

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