By Jim Corah
It has been a mixed June for Kirkstall in Bloom. At the weekend volunteers completed their summer planting and then yesterday (Tuesday, 14 June 2022) one of their community garden beds had been vandalised.
Every spring volunteers have the same ritual. In May when the spring bulbs start to wain they clear them away and make space for the summer flowers. Making space is a bit of a euphemism, they spend a lot of time weeding and trimming back plants.
This year marks the tenth year of Kirkstall in Bloom, which was established in 2012 with the help of local councillors, the Kirkstall Village Community Association, and some very hardy volunteers. There is a small committee of volunteers who are helped out by a number of regular volunteers.
The initial community garden they looked after was the Drink and Be Grateful Fountain Garden. Over the years they added the cenotaph and beds near Kirkstall Leisure Centre to their rota of activities, with planters at Kirkstall Forge Railway Station being added in 2021. With the exception of December, it is year-long volunteering.
Some of the plants are purchased at the Arium, some of the plants are grown by committee members. Planning for summer usually happens around October time, March we were looking towards Autumn. Gardening is an ever evolving task throughout the year.
Over Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 June 2022 Kirkstall In Bloom’s volunteers worked very hard.
They started on Saturday in the Drink and Be Grateful Fountain Garden, which is a little oasis of calm right on the A65. Sunday was given over to planting at the Cenotaph, near Kirkstall Leisure Centre, and out at the Kirkstall Forge Railway Station.
The beds near the Leisure Centre have been a little bit of a hard task. The base soil is incredibly sandy and weedy, and last year it was ‘tidied’ up by over-enthusiastic council workers. So there were very ingenious plans here, a pro-community bed of blue and yellow colours to compliment the Latent Power sculpture nearby.
Blue and yellow colours of Ukraine’s flag. Blue and yellow of the Leeds United crest. Blue and yellow of the EU. Yellow flowers that were pro-bee. Blue flowers as the warmest colour.
Unfortunately between planting on Sunday and when committee member Becky cycled by on Tuesday morning someone had vandalised the bed. They removed all the vibrant yellow marigolds. The vandals were very specific in this, they left all the new plants were untouched.
The group has had plants stolen before, beds have been trampled, and people still discard their litter into the beds. Yet this very specific vandalism has been the worst. The weekend was 25 hours of volunteer hours work, months of preparation and growing flowers. Why would someone be so disrespectful to their efforts and the community we all live in? Not going to lie, it did make more than one volunteer consider giving up completely.
And yet in the hours since the group posted the first images of the damage the in-pouring of positive comments on social media and in-person has been immense. We knew our efforts were appreciated in Kirkstall, though hadn’t realised quite how much. Thank you.
This is the core reason I volunteer, to make our community better for all. The next steps for Kirkstall in Bloom will be reporting the vandalism to the police and making arrangements to replace the marigolds.
Next month we will be part of Kirkstall Festival, talking to potential volunteers about getting involved with our sessions. Come say hello.