Falkirk’s Central Retail Park takes a green-fingered approach to mental health
The benefits of repurposing unused space for greenery go far beyond increasing ecological diversity. The Workman team at Central Retail Park, Falkirk, decided to pull their green fingers out during lockdown to create an urban garden in a disused service yard, with a mind to promoting biodiversity and community links in the neighbourhood.
Since its creation, David McKay, senior associate at Workman Retail & Leisure, says that the garden has blossomed, producing flowers, fruit and veg, as well as providing a source of mental wellbeing for both the Workman team, and occupier staff, during the months of lockdown.
Central Retail Park in Falkirk is built on an old ironworks, meaning that most of its ground is reinforced concrete, so ground planting was not viable. The team identified two unused areas in a service yard which could be repurposed to create green spaces to encourage wildlife, with an end goal to make the garden as sustainable as possible.
One space was turned into a wildflower meadow, while the other space is already walled off on three sides, providing a sheltered location ideal for a garden, although planting would need to be in raised beds, due to the shallow ground.
With 31 of the retail park occupiers needing to dispose of non-returnable pallets, the team decided to use these to construct planters and fencing for the area. Old display furniture was donated by occupiers, and fly-tipped items such as old tyres and bins were repurposed as useful planters, bringing the project together.
Planters were lined and filled with compost ready for growing, and coffee grounds were collected from occupiers for soil enrichment. A composting area, rainwater collection system and work bench were also created, while unsold perennial plants donated by occupiers were replanted in the garden and have now been used as a source of seeds for propagation for this year’s hanging baskets.
Now, the garden is thriving and boosting biodiversity, whilst providing a safe, quiet outdoor space for use as a lunch or breakout space throughout the day.
“It has made the Workman team and occupiers realise that however small or hostile a space may seem, everyone can do something to help increase biodiversity, bring social engagement and community value,” says McKay.
“One member of the security staff felt so moved by the garden’s impact on his mental wellbeing during lockdown that he wrote a letter of thanks to the Workman team. This letter hit home with the whole team, demonstrating the positive impact this project has had on the wellbeing of everyone involved. This benefit was not something that was envisaged at the start of the project; but is perhaps its most satisfying impact.”
With retail reopening, Workman now has broader social plans for the garden which include community gardening and ‘how to’ workshops to teach upcycling skills, forging links with local groups, developing a growing schedule, tracking the increase of bug and bird life, and creating social media content on wildlife and garden projects.
“As lockdowns ease and the world returns to normality, the park will benefit from the groundwork laid, enabling it to spring into life,” McKay adds.
This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.