By James Bonthron
A relatively new volunteer group at Ellington Park is devoted to connecting people and plants.
The Gardening Interest Group (GIG) is held every Wednesday at 11am in the park café – which was built by funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund. The group aims to grow a social atmosphere while members talk horticulture.
Set up less than two years ago, the growing group is comprised of a number of volunteers. One of the creators, Sue Revell, aimed to mirror a similar special interest group she leads in the Honeysuckle Inn around blues music and focuses on building a friendly atmosphere. The group meets on the first Thursday of the month (https://blueswithbottleclub.co.uk/)
Kirsty Peterkin is the activity officer at Ellington Park. As part of her role, she liaises with and facilitates the GIG as well as the wellness group held on a Tuesday at 1pm.
She said that the group aims to: “Swap seeds, knowledge, discuss composting. We’re just learning from each other. It’s a volunteer organisation, it’s really the volunteers digging and caring for the park. It’s reliant on volunteers and if people want to help, please come down to the park and help out.”
She continued: “[We are] always encouraging watering and caring for the wildlife garden. It needs some love.”
Speaking on behalf of the Friends of Ellington Park, she added: “’FoEP would like to thank all of our volunteers, including Dawn Huckle and Cllr Kevin Pressland, they meet volunteers at the wildlife area/bookshop every Wednesday by midday if you would like to join in. Children must be accompanied by adults.”
Another keen volunteer is Conor Hope, who is a Ramsgate-based aspiring botanist. Conor has begun volunteering with the group during recovering from ME/CFS. He has found that the group, as well as other plant-based volunteering, has helped him build up the skills for his desired industry. In total, Conor has been volunteering with the group for almost 9 months.
He said: “[It’s a] marriage of my passion for plants and my physical recovery. It’s just nice to be among people with a shared interest in plants and nature to discuss topics and come up with new ideas.”
Ellington Park has a special place in Conor’s heart, having spent much of his childhood playing there.
He said: “Ellington Park is an idyllic place to grow up in and it’s nice to give back a bit.”
While greatly enjoying the group’s meetings and activities, the budding botanist suggested that the group could be improved if there was more of a practical focus going forward.
He said: “It would be nice for us to branch out into something a little more practical to help the park develop and we also talked about trying to make the group more focused by maybe having a speaker each time.”
There have been a number of local-interest presentations hosted by GIG, including coastline expert Cllr Tony Ovenden, who also is involved with the Ramsgate in Bloom awards.
There are future plans to use the group as more of a vehicle to help the wildlife garden, with much overlap already existing. Some of the GIG volunteers already help with the wildlife garden, including Cllr Kevin Pressland who, along with others, donated a huge number of seeds to the garden.
GIG also hosts free monthly tree walks and archaeological talks.
A range of other free events are held at Ellington Park, including the Picnic in the Park on July 22. As well as live music, this family-friendly picnic will have food for sale. Later on in the year, the park will be hosting a Young Minds Wellness Day on the 9th August at noon-3pm. This year also marks the 130th birthday of the park on September 10, falling during the Heritage Open Days.