At the Avery Hill campus of the University of Greenwich is an Edible Garden. Started in 2012, it is made up of raised beds, a poly-tunnel, a forest garden, a pond and an orchard and produces a harvest that is available to staff, students and the public. The garden encourages organic and healthy diets and providing a valuable resource for students who may be on a budget. Avery Hill Edible Garden supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, individuals with access to nature are usually happier, calmer and more creative and focused. The garden is utilised and integrated into teaching in several courses. It helps students think out of the box and realise the power nature has to improve wellbeing.
Kesia Bossy, a BEng Hons Chemical Engineering student said:
‘I wanted to get more experience in growing but I also have a passion for alternative sustainable materials as I want to explore how to create sustainable products. I really feel like being in nature has helped me to develop a new hobby.’
Ahmet Esmer, a second year BSc Biology student said:
‘It was a hands-on experience to boost my skills and to connect to nature.’
In Spring 2022, a team of student volunteers developed a plan to restore the gardens following Covid’s impact on the gardens. They gained over £10k investment from the university to build new long lasting raised beds with accessibility for all.
But it’s not just for students, the garden is also open to the public. During the summer months the local community are welcome to visit and pick any of the organic fruit ready to harvest. There are paths through the forest gardens to ponds, bird watching hides and the wildflower meadow and traditional fruit orchard. There’s seating and table areas to eat lunch or just to sit and be lifted by the nature. You can see a video of the garden here.
These spaces are a valuable habitat and home for many species of plants, insects and invertebrates, mammals and birds. There are protected species such as dormice, hedgehogs, plus a range of birds of prey including kestrels and buzzards plus species of bats. So far over 250 animal species have been identified including around 25 species listed as vulnerable. Staff and students are invited to record the species they see on campus using iRecord (an app to report and explore wildlife). A project training students and staff to identify species will be launched soon.
Among higher education institutions, the University of Greenwich is a leader in sustainability. With the ambition of reaching net zero by 2030, the university has made sustainability changes across the board from fossil fuel usage being phased out in all buildings and vehicles, and providing sustainable food options to all, to adding a sustainability module into all courses and forming partnerships with green partners.