When outdoor space became available on the military base of Thorney Island, green-fingered Army spouse Elizabeth Webster (pictured below with children Oscar and Betsy) was quick to see the potential for a community garden. Now, this corner of Hampshire has a place that everyone can enjoy…

AS A keen gardener, Elizabeth was already aware of the positive benefits the pastime can have on health and wellbeing.

She told Army&You: “My aim was to develop a fantastic shared space where military families could come together to forge friendships, learn new skills and strengthen community spirit.”

With help from other families, Elizabeth set about building a new fence and converting a wild patch.

“We had to do a lot of clearing and digging but managed to create some vegetable patches and a wonderful wildlife area including a deluxe bug hotel and mini pond – we even won a local wildlife competition in September,” she explained.

Elizabeth secured funding from sources including the unit welfare team, SSAFA and construction group Kier, which built a barbecue and donated timber. Garden centres and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have also offered free items, while a tree surgeon provides a steady supply of wood chip.

“My advice would be to approach the welfare team first and have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and how it will benefit your community,” added Elizabeth.

“The station staff officer has been instrumental in helping me get the project off the ground, offering support and a cuppa throughout.”

Craft activities run during school holidays have been very popular with children, who love looking for lizards and watching the tadpoles grow.

The garden has been well-received by many families who have put effort into its running and upkeep. Hayley Taylor said: “[It’s] a fantastic addition to the island – a real community project that has been wonderful to see coming together. Lots of hard work has paid off to produce an area that can be enjoyed by the whole family.”

Army spouse Katie Wright agreed: “My girls love exploring, learning about all wildlife and playing in the mud kitchen. I even get a chance to sit down and relax for a while – a rare moment as a mum.”

Elizabeth is now developing long-term plans to ensure the garden will continue to grow so families will be able to enjoy this amazing space for many years to come.

Elizabeth is our spring Community Champion and wins a tablet courtesy of DXC Technology. 

Do you have a person who works hard to improve Army family life in your area? To nominate them for this award, email editor@aff.org.uk with ‘Community Champion’ in the subject line and a summary – no more than 300 words – of why you think they should win. The winner’s story will be published in Army&You and we’ll share the others on this website.

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