Nort Trow Garden: Unused Graveyard to Popular Community Garden – via the Chelsea Flower Show

Nort Trow Community Garden

The Nort Trow Community Garden, located in North Roe, is a great example of how dedicated community members can come together to create something special for the benefit of the wider community. We spoke to Beth, Maureen and Veronique – some of the garden’s long-term volunteers - over a cup of tea in the garden’s shed to hear the story of the garden’s development over the past years.

Located near the Church of Scotland in North Roe, the land which is now the Nort Trow Garden was originally developed many decades ago to be used a graveyard.  However, this had seemingly been done in haste, as the type of soil and ground conditions made it apparent that it would not be suitable for this purpose.  The space therefore lay untouched for several decades until the late 1990’s when a group of folk in the community had the idea of turning it into a community yard.

            

Work then began on the task of improving the soil and planting on some areas – a big project in itself, given the poor quality of the existing soil.  Whilst work on the garden then dwindled slightly for a few years, community interest in the garden was then kick-started by the development of the Shetland Croft House Garden in 2008 – a story which originated nearly 1000 miles away at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show. 

Inspired during a trip to Shetland, the idea of entering a Shetland Croft House Garden in the show came from Martin Anderson MBE - co-founder of the Motor Neurone Disease Association - with the intention to raise funds and awareness of MND.  The initial garden idea was then designed by Nottingham Trent University lecturer and garden designer Sue Hayward, and developed along with staff and students from the university. 

The garden, which was inspired by a typical 1940s Shetland Croft garden and one of nine courtyard gardens at the event, was awarded a Gold Medal at the event, as well as winning the 'BBC's RHS People's Award for Best Small Show Garden'.  It attracted thousands of admirers, including the Queen. 

Following the tremendous success of the garden at the Show, there was a strong desire to ensure that it could be preserved at a suitable location over the long term.  Consequently, a huge community effort led to the Shetland Crofthouse Garden continuing life at the Nort Trow Community Garden.  The Garden group obtained the plants after the Show and reconstructed the garden, with Martin Anderson and Sue Hayward very helpful in providing plans and photographs of the original design.

The plants travelled from Chelsea to North Roe via a Streamline container and the first job was to construct the crofthouse façade, before planting could begin.  Members of the garden group gathered and moved over 17 tonnes of stone by hand – no mean feat!  A team of Shetland stonemasons built the façade.  Local volunteers also constructed the wrackwid fence. 

           

Since the development of the Shetland Croft House Garden, a small band of volunteers has continued to develop and improve the garden.  In recent years, the ‘beach’ area with the boat – donated from a member of the community - has been created, paths have been installed, picnic benches, toys and the sand pit for bairns have been added, the rockery has been built and the decked area has been constructed.  Very recently, the ‘sitooterie’ has been built and the commemorative poppies have been installed, along with the newest garden ‘resident’: Tirval-Totem-Trow! While these major works have been going on, soil improvements and planting have also taken place.

Beth, Maureen and Veronique stated that the garden is, and always will be, a work in progress but hoped that visitors to the garden would enjoy finding what has been created over the past decades. 

           

The upkeep and development of the garden largely relies on donations received from visitors to the garden, so they are always very grateful for any donations visitors might care to leave following their visit.  There are also plants for sale at the garden for a peerie donation.  They also encouraged visitors to the garden to sign their visitor’s book – something which already highlights how much appreciation for the garden there is, from both local and international admirers.

Nort Trow Community Garden Facebook Page: Nort Trow Garden | Facebook

July 2021