One of the projects at the Green Backyard.One of the projects at the Green Backyard.
One of the projects at the Green Backyard.

Volunteers restoring The Green Backyard to former glory after site left vacant during pandemic

Volunteers transforming once neglected urban site in Peterborough into an inner-city community green space.

A group of volunteers are restoring a popular community green space in the heart of Peterborugh’s city centre to its former glory - after the site was left vacant for 18 months during the pandemic.

The Green Backyard was the brainchild of father and daughter team Renny and Sophie Antonelli. Established in 2009, the once derelict former allotment site on Oundle Road was transformed by a team of volunteers into a vibrant and inclusive community garden.

However, when the country went into lockdown in March 2020, The Green Backyard was forced to close its gates for almost two years. The site became a sprawling urban jungle - unmaintained and overgrown. The volunteers and trustees at The Green Backyard now hope to restore the two-acre green space to where it was before the pandemic ahead of this summer.

“This last year since we were able to open again we’ve had to spend the time bringing it back to its former glory,” Harriet O’Shea, 28, a volunteer and trustee at The Green Backyard, said.

“As you can imagine, after a year-and-a-half of a garden not being touched it was completely overgrown - the grass was so high you could swim in it.

“Our volunteers and trustees have worked really hard to return the site to its former glory - and now is the exciting time to decide what we want to do next and what the next steps will be.”

The Green Backyard’s mission is to create an accessible green space for the community to take ownership of. It wants to bring people more in touch with nature - championing conservation and permaculture.

It is hosting its Spring Fair next month (April 30) - which Ms O’Shea hopes will showcase what The Green Backyard has to offer and recruit more volunteers.

“It’s about creating a shared space for the people of Peterborough,” Ms O’Shea said. “It’s not just a handful of volunteers running it - it’s everyone’s space.

“The new thing this year is our market garden - where the community can come and pick their own veg. We would like to create veg boxes, which we could sell to local restaurants and cafes and then any income generated from that would go straight back into the Green Backyard.

“At our Spring Fair there will be music, arts and crafts, garden tours - it will be all about really opening up this space again.”

The Green Backyard works with several local organisations and charities - including Headway and mental health charities MIND and Men’s Shed.

Julie Danby owns Refill Revolution Peterborough on the site of The Green Backyard. The store offers people a chance to refill their old containers with foods and liquids.

“It’s a zero waste refill shop,” Ms Danby siad. “The idea is to make sustainable shopping mainstream and all without packaging.

“People bring along their own containers and we refill them to save everyone from buying new plastic bottles all the time, encouraging the recycling of plastic bottles which can last for years.

“We’ve steadily had more and more customers find us. Generally it’s been really well received and it completely ties in with the ethics of The Green Backyard.

“It’s a lovely natural partnership with them. We’re hoping that in the summer, once the market garden kicks off, we’ll also have free fruit and veg which you can get from the site.”

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