Growing Community Spirit (and Vegetables) in Campsie

Campsie Residents’ Association in Omagh aims to provide facilities and programmes to better the lifestyle of their residents and surrounding areas. Most of the time, this involves providing activities for the local community.

 Growing food and fun in the heart of Campsie.

Growing food and fun in the heart of Campsie.

Their latest project looks a little different and a lot greener. They have set up a communal garden for people to both visit and work on together. The community has made the most of this previously derelict bit of land to grow produce, build relationships, educate the younger generation, and help local residents during difficult times.

The local garden has also become an effective way to help newcomers integrate into the area. By asking new residents if they would like to get involved with the garden, the group has helped people to develop social skills and get involved in the community. In particular, it has really helped local men to come together through shared activity and has provided the space and place for them to chat and enjoy each other’s company.

Campsie resident and community worker Hazel Mcguigan explains how the community garden came about and how they got the most out of it to help residents in the area. “A small area of land was made available to the Residents Association by a private owner which we have since used to grow many vegetables”, she informed Supporting Communities.

“The area where our community garden is now was once an area where people gathered and caused anti-social behaviour. Once we acquired the land, we turned a negative into a positive - I believe community spirit can help with anything.”

Hazel gave credit to multiple agencies who helped the garden get up and running including The Prince’s Trust, Craft NI, FODC, Men’s Shed Omagh, and the Community Church.

 Flowers from the garden brighten the community square.

Flowers from the garden brighten the community square.

David, a local resident and keen gardener, explains what produce is available from the community garden, “We have potatoes, broad beans and peas, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, rhubarb, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, and beetroot. Flowers from the garden have been distributed throughout the Campsie area on homes, railings, signs and poles, improving the appearance and adding to its value.”

The community garden has become a great focal point for the area and, with plans in the mix to extend it to include a BBQ area, the Community Relations possibilities are endless. All that is needed is a little bit of good weather! Campsie Residents’ Association also hopes to rent a polytunnel from a nearby community association building both their networks and their growing potential.

 Hazel takes Colm on a tour of the garden.

Hazel takes Colm on a tour of the garden.

On a recent visit, Chief Executive of Supporting Communities, Colm McDaid remarked, “I am delighted to see the Campsie area looking so vibrant and colourful. This comes down to the hard work and voluntary hours put in by community groups such as Campsie Residents Association. The residents have a great sense of pride in this area and we feel privileged to support them through our organisation.” 

He added, “We are always looking to improve the quality of life for the communities we support, whether it is to improve general health and well-being or to improve the environment they live in. Well done to all involved with Campsie Residents’ Association, especially Hazel, with whom we work closely, and who is a credit to the Campsie and Omagh area.”

Since taking on the community garden, the group feel more empowered to take charge and are now in control of locking their play park at night. A number of residents who now have keys are able to walk around the park at 9 pm each night ensuring the area is safe. This makes elderly residents feel more comfortable in their homes and it adds to the Residents’ Association’s sense of pride in their area.

 Darragh O'Neill, Supporting Communities, and Hazel Mcguigan at The Hub.

Darragh O'Neill, Supporting Communities, and Hazel Mcguigan at The Hub.

The group has been in operation for over 13 years. Their community building, ‘The Hub’, opened in 2014 and the association continues to develop with support from agencies such as Supporting Communities, Dept. for Communities, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, FOCUS, PCSP, the Housing Executive, public health agencies and more.