Community garden gets fit for bumper crops of visitors

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Dalmally Community Garden has ‘worked out’ a great way of keeping residents and visitors in good shape.

Thanks to a grant, the garden, which started out as an orchard project back in 2012 to share fruit with the community, has now installed some gym equipment so people can exercise even more in the great outdoors.

The garden, on land owned by the Church of Scotland, has become a top destination for people of all ages living in the village – especially the primary and nursery school, and for some older residents who can not get up onto the hills anymore but want a stroll out, said Janet Buchanan who is one of the original founders.

One not so welcome visitor to the garden recently was roe deer who used the garden’s work-in-progress willow structure to rub the velvet off their antlers and have a sly munch.

Over Christmas the garden which also has a bird hide and a beautiful wooden bench sheltered by a drystone wall overlooking the river fondly known as Dalmally Swimming pool, was featured on Cameron MacNeish’s  Roads Less Travelled programme on BBC2 Scotland.

TV’s popular Beechgrove Garden series has also had a hand to play in the making of the garden, which is used as a frequent hub for events by local groups putting a wooden open-side shelter to good use. Craig Lodge put on a nativity there at Christmas and other events have included barbecues, a treasure hunt and Halloween spooktacular.

‘We have been so lucky with funding and still are. Our project ticks lots of boxes,’ said Mrs Buchanan.

Volunteers are always needed to help out in the garden which has purposefully been designed to be low-maintenance with its wild woodland area and bog garden.

‘We don’t have an official count of users but we know the garden and the gym equipment are being well used.

‘We’ve also seen an increase in the birds coming to visit and we’ve got red squirrels. We’ve no flower beds so everything is wild. The trees are doing well even though we had to give them a harsh pruning – there’s apple, pear and damson. We got quite a crop last year. We’ve also got trees up at the schools, at the front of the church, down the wall, and on the golf course, and we’re trying to establish more fruit trees at the Bridge of Orchy.’

Seven years after it started, the original garden project has grown so much that it is branching out again, this time working on creating a new community garden on the site of the old tin church at Portsonachan and is hoping to generate lots of interest to get more helpers.

‘The project is growing arms and legs all the time,’ said Mrs Buchanan.

To keep up to date with the project visit facebook.com/GlenorchyandInnishailCommunityOrchard/