Cambridge Growing Spaces

Growing Spaces is a wonderful project which creates, plants and maintains edible gardens in the city which can be harvested by anybody …. anybody at all and the food is free!

GS veg bed
Image credit:  Growing Spaces

The Growing Spaces team, run by Sandra Cortijo, plants these gardens in unloved and underused public spaces in Cambridge (having first received permission from the landowner!).  There are currently six gardens dotted around the city – you can check out their locations on the website.  “Each garden has its own story,” Sandra tells me.  “They’re generally not high maintenance but they are regularly checked, so they’re kept healthy and tidy.”

 

GS raised beds
Image credit:  Growing Spaces

If a volunteer can commit to giving some extra care during a growing season, the group will plant vegetables such as tomatoes, courgettes and beans.  If not, they’ll plant herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme alongside fruit bushes.

GS herbs
Image credit:  Growing Spaces
GS blackcurrants
Image credit: Growing Spaces

Growing Spaces gardens for and with the community.  Volunteers supply seedlings and nurseries often donate plants while YMCA volunteers build frames for the raised beds.  The team installs, fills and plants these tall raised beds on the same day.  To make sure that their edible gardens thrive, they have perfected the “lasagna method” of filling the beds with layers of cardboard, branches, hay, paper, soil, dried leaves, grass cuttings and mulch.  This creates a nutrient rich permaculture that decomposes over time and needs less watering.  You’ll find full details of this “lasagna method” on the Growing Spaces website under the “Resources” tab.

GS swap and share stall
Image credit: Growing Spaces

The group organises cycle tours of its gardens, so people can see what’s growing and where.  It also has a free gardening club where people of all ages get together to grow their own vegetables and herbs.   The team runs a fresh produce swap and share stall at events like the Pumpkin Festival, giving everybody a chance to share their excess allotment or garden produce or just to come and choose some fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs for free.

 

Growing Spaces is part of Transition Cambridge, an organisation which “aims to help the city make the transition to ways of life that are more resilient in the face of rising energy prices and a changing climate”.  A grant from the Council got the Growing Spaces group started and Sandra got involved in 2013.  Growing up, Sandra had always gardened with her mother and grandparents at home in France but had then stopped.  “I relearned gardening with this group,” Sandra says “and really, no knowledge is necessary.  We try things out and see what works best.”

If you’d like to volunteer to plan and plant with the team or if you know of a space in the city that needs care, just email Sandra through the Growing Spaces website.

http://www.cambridge.growingspaces.org

http://www.transitioncambridge.org

Free Cakes Cambridge

Every so often, you come across an idea that’s so simple and yet so perfect.  When pictures of fabulous cakes started coming up on my Instagram feed recently, I was intrigued and, being a keen baker myself, I decided to find out more about Free Cakes Cambridge.

Free Cakes choc cake

Their concept is straightforward.  A volunteer baker makes a birthday or celebration cake for someone who wouldn’t otherwise receive one.  Partner organisations such as children’s centres, Wintercomfort, Cambridge Women’s Aid and The Teenage Cancer Trust put in a request to Free Cakes Cambridge HQ for a cake, personalised to the recipient’s favourite theme or taste.  The baker makes the cake at home and delivers it to the lucky recipient personally.

Free cakes frozen cakeThe Free Cakes Cambridge group was set up in 2014 by Claire Eudall, an enthusiastic baker who wanted to use her skills for good purposes.  It’s an offshoot of the Free Cakes for Kids community organisation which started in Oxford in 2007 and which today has eighty groups spread across the UK.  Rosalyn Scott joined in 2016 and now runs the Cambridge group of around forty volunteers, the majority of whom are keen amateur bakers living in and around the city, although there are also two professional bakers on the team.

Free Cakes superman cakeYou don’t need any special qualifications to get involved.  “We send out food prep guidelines to our bakers,” Rosalyn tells me.  “You just need to love baking and have a good imagination.  And you must be happy to take a theme and run with it.”  Volunteer bakers get together regularly for cake decorating workshops and, of course, for afternoon tea!

The Free Cakes Cambridge team has created some amazing cake designs, as you can see from the photos in this post.  But it’s not just the gorgeous design that matters.  A special cake made just for them helps people facing difficulties to feel supported and valued, as well as giving family and friends a wonderful chance to celebrate together.

Free Cakes number one cake

If you work with a potential partner organisation or if you’d like to volunteer to join the team and spread some love in the form of baked goods around this city, just email Rosalyn on freecakesforkidscambridge@gmail.com or contact her through the group’s Facebook page (where you can also feast your eyes on lots of lovely cake photos!).

All image credits:  Free Cakes Cambridge