Bathgate’s Black Gold (soon to turn green)

By Fergus Walker

We have just finished a very busy few weeks helping the people of the Chill Out Zone (COZ) in Bathgate to create their own garden from scratch.  COZ is a service run by the charity Children 1st, and provides counselling, advice and support, as well as running a youth cafe where the young people who use the centre can come for a meal and take part in cookery workshops. The connection arose as both the Seed Truck and COZ have been supported by players of People’s Postcode lottery – and since our first meeting early this year, we have got on like a house on fire!

The photos below show the whole process, from planning, to building raised beds, to planting.

Just on Wednesday (24th July) last week, we planted up the raised beds with 200 salad plants, some strawberries, raspberries, and fruit bushes.  Tomorrow we will be going back to plant out a herb bed. Great fun was had, as PPL, the funder, came to make a film about the project. We were also visited by a press photographer, staff from Children 1st, and a Taiwanese film crew who are making a film about youth employment opportunities in Scotland.  So it was a busy day! An excerpt from the press release on the day is included below.

People’s Postcode Lottery filmed at the service today (Wednesday 24 July) to showcase an innovative partnership between two of the projects players of the Lottery help to support.
The Bathgate-based COZ service provides a drop-in centre for young people in West Lothian aged 12 to 20 to get information, counselling and advice.
The COZ service has recently been working closely with the Seed Truck, a joint project between WWF Scotland and Fife Diet, which gives people practical ideas on how to grow your own food. Activities led by the Seed Truck at today’s filming session at CHILDREN 1st included workshops on growing salad and art activities.
COZ service manager Ruth Ritchie said: “Our young people have really enjoyed working with the Seed Truck project. It’s been a chance for them to get their hands dirty (literally!) and find out how to grow their own food and eat healthily – a skill for life. We are so grateful that players of People’s Postcode Lottery have helped us  make this innovative project a reality.”
Fergus Walker, Seed Truck co-ordinator, said: “Helping the young people at COZ to create their own garden from scratch has been fantastic. Learning how to grow your own food is a life skill that everyone should have, and as COZ already has its own kitchen where the young people can come for cooking workshops, it makes sense for them to grow the food they cook with. You get better value for money, taste and variety even from a small garden.  And after a few weeks their lettuce and strawberries will be ready for a monster garden party!”
Kate Pearson, Trusts Manager at People’s Postcode Lottery said; “We were delighted to come along and film with the Seed Truck and CHILDREN 1ST today. Both these fantastic projects are supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and it is great that through the relationship they have with the Lottery and its players that they have been able to make this connection.”
It is the second time young people from COZ have featured on film in the last six months. Several youngsters worked with film-maker Lisa Nicoll to make The Protector, a highly-acclaimed film which recently took top prize In the SSSC Care Accolades ‘Working With Local Communities category’.

We’re hoping that thses raised beds will become a core part of COZ, and that the young people who attend will be able to come year after year and grow their oen fresh, tasty produce.  In fact, if you know anyone who might want to volunteer with the project in Bathgate, please get in touch!

Bathgate crew

The Seed Truck and Chill Out Zone crew – well done to everybody!


Seed Truck and Chill Out Zone

Francois from PPL, Fergus from the Seed Truck, and Lesley from the Chill Out Zone. Getting used to being on camera!

designs for stencils

One of the COZ artists, making stencils


Hannah and the seed truck

Hanna Ayre is the newest member of the Seed Truck, and led her first workshop with us a workshop on making stenceils to spray-paint onto the new raised beds. It went down a storm!


Raking out the compost

All the work is done now – the beds have been filled. And what an achievment – a massive well done, especially to the young people of COZ. They moved 10 tonnes of compost in just a few hours – I think the record was 15 barroww-loads in just one hour!


Compost delivery

Thanks very much to West Lothian Council for their bumper delivery of free compost! Pictured are Jim and George from the Compost Office


Bathgate Plan

James Chapman leading a workshop, back in March, on planning what the garden will be like- using Permaculture principles.


The space in winter, before any work started