Nestled at the foot of the Ochil Hills, Menstrie is a small village within a group of settlements known as the ‘Hillfoots’, in the county of Clackmannanshire. With stunning views of the Ochils and overlooking the summit of Dumyat, it is easy to see why Menstrie is a popular location among tourists and locals alike.
The Menstrie Community Garden was established 20 years ago on a former housing estate for the residents of Menstrie Castle. Menstrie Castle was the birth place of Sir William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling, who went on to found the Canadian province of Nova Scotia in 1632.
The land was used as a drying green for residents, but was deemed derelict once the residential properties were sold into private ownership. After obtaining a lease to build a community garden, the National Lottery’s ‘Awards For All’ scheme allocated funding for the project, and the space was kitted out with raised planting beds, a communal polytunnel, and safer walking areas.
The site however, developed its own set of teething problems and Les Sharp, community member and avid gardener, was keen to assist in making some important changes. He said, “The timber used to make the planting beds was old and rotting, and some of the larger beds were not user-friendly, which made it difficult for some of our more senior residents to pick fruit and veg as it became ready.”
In August 2022, plans were drawn up to revamp the community garden, and applications for funding were sent to several contractors. Les explained, “Our application to Forth & Lomond CLLD was successful, and we were granted almost £10,000 to cover the cost of materials for the project. We had to wait until the start of this year to begin the build because at Christmas time, we turn the garden into Santa’s Grotto!”
The project was completed in February this year, and the site now boasts more user-friendly planting beds with wheelchair access, as well as a brand new shelter where residents can relax and enjoy the stunning views of the hills. A small grant from Scotmid has enabled the planting of new trees, and work tables have been built using recycled timber.
An important factor for Les and the other users is ensuring that the garden remains open to all. Les said, “We have come to realise that the garden is a communal space where people can ‘take a load off’, whether that be through gardening, socialising, or using the space to celebrate a birthday or retirement. We have a small team of volunteers and we do not charge any fees - we simply ask that people engage in our work.”
Now that the Menstrie Community Garden has completed its makeover, the gardeners are looking forward to a busy year ahead. They have plans for sowing seeds in the new communal polytunnel after last year’s growing season yielded almost 50 tomato, cucumber, and pepper plants. There are also big plans to work with the local ‘Clacks Good Food Group’, which aims to educate young children on the nutritional benefits of growing fresh fruit and veg.
Menstrie Community Garden serves as an inspirational reminder that gardening is accessible to everyone, and that it can be a powerful force in uniting small communities.
For further information, or to get involved, contact Les Sharp by email, or on Facebook at Menstrie Community Hub.
If you would like to see your community gardening group featured in a future edition of Scotland Grows magazine, please do get in touch to email@example.com - we would love to hear from you!