How utilising Reading Borough Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) opened a world of opportunity for the people of Coley and the wider environment.
We still have to pinch ourselves when we think about how much we achieved at Holy Brook Nook, a run-down area of Reading that had previously been known for crime and persistent drug use.
Conservation, a play & learning space, public art, walking programmes, community events and a community garden, the list is substantial. We’ve strengthened our existing partnerships and forged new ones. And have successfully engaged local schools and the community to co-create a thriving natural community and outdoor learning space that they are keen to protect.
But the project hasn’t been without its challenges; clearing hazardous rubbish, managing homeless people and drug use on-site, anti-social behaviour and even a fire. But our commitment to making a change, and the will of all those involved, from the groups we collaborated with to the local residents and schools, drove us to keep going, no matter what.
Co-creation ensures the community is at the heart of our projects.
Our first point of call was to meet with those living close by. Our facilitated community engagement events enable us, and our partners, to understand residents’ challenges and fears about Holy Brook Book, listen to their ideas for regeneration, and encourage them to get involved.
Wanting to ensure all our activities were therapeutic and supportive, we ensured everyone felt welcome, regardless of their abilities or gardening experience. We continued to provide a range of nature-based interventions and events to suit all.
For so many people living in Coley who’d spent their lives avoiding this space, the transformation was something quite incredible:
“My first time helping with work at the Holy Brook Nook site was the first thing I’d done since Covid lockdowns that wasn’t specifically for people with mental health issues. It’s opened my horizons! I don’t know where it will take me next, but I now feel there’s a positive world – in nature and people and further travels. In the meantime, I know I have a welcome, positive work, good company, and much new to learn at Holy Brook Nook.” Jane
Giving a community garden a new home.
When friends of Nature Nurture, Food4Families who run Lavender Place Community Garden, were told by developers they had to leave their land, we knew we had to help or risk losing a raised bed garden structure and plants to the value of £4750 and around 200 volunteers. Together with Food4Families, we dismantled and moved the garden to Holy Brook Nook and celebrated the first harvest with a Pumpkin Feast for 24 asylum seekers with the Reading Refugee Support Group.
This is not the end…
We are dedicated to continuing the great work started at Holy Brook, working alongside those living in the Coley areas and securing ongoing funding for more equipment, signage, educational resources, wellbeing interventions and events.
We did not achieve our success alone.
We will be forever grateful for the support we received from the local community and our broader network of partnerships. These include:
- Commando Jugendstil community artists
- The Conservation Volunteers
- Progress Theatre
- Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)
- Real-Time Participatory Video
- Reading Voluntary Action
- The University of Reading
- Coley 58th Reading Scout Group
- West Central Children’s Centre Reading (Brighter Futures for Children)
- Katesgrove and Coley Primary Schools