Youngsters on a Wrexham housing estate are getting all green-fingered after joining the Garden Gang.

By developing a passion for gardening, the green fingered youngsters want to spruce up their environment and grow food to take home for family meals.

The imaginative Garden Gang venture is part-funded through a £500 grant from the High Sheriffs’ charity, Crimebeat, which helps young people develop projects to make communities safer.

The Leader:

Charlie Akgul is pictured doing his bit for the community as part of the Garden Gang

High Sheriff of Clwyd Stephanie Catherall dropped in on one of the busy sessions in Acrefair and presented the youngsters with a selection of seeds and a gardening book packed with tips.

She also advised them to collect cardboard toilet roll centres to fill with compost instead of plastic plant pots as a biodegradable way of sowing seeds.

The gang was launched by team leaders at The Land adventure playground, on Plas Madoc housing estate which is world famous for its visionary approach to children’s play.

The Leader:

Kelsey Rennie and Isabelle Thompson, enthusiastic members of the Garden Gang

The Land, opened in 2011 and hailed as revolutionary by experts, is run by the Association Of Voluntary Organisations In Wrexham (AVOW) and provides an open access adventure play area for children aged five to 16.

But rather than traditional playground equipment like slides and roundabouts The Land consists of 55 square metres filled with old pallets, tyres, wheelbarrows, ladders, fishing nets, ropes, punch bags and even a collection of hammers. There’s a stream running through it and mature trees for climbing.

The Garden Gang is the latest of many inventive activities run by The Land manager Claire Pugh and her assistant Dave Bullough after being launched as a six-week summer event offering the chance to learn gardening skills during school holidays.

The Leader:

The High Sheriff of Clwyd, Stephanie Catherall, with Eden Bradley

Claire said: “It has had the knock on effect of helping promote a healthy diet for the whole community.

“Kids have grown lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, cucumbers and strawberries to take home for delicious, healthy family feasts.”

Dave said: “I just can’t believe how much interest there’s been and I was especially surprised by how the older kids are getting into it.

The Leader:

Isabelle Thompson

“I gave them tools to build wooden planters at first, but when they saw produce we were growing they drifted over to help the younger ones with seed sowing and planting up.

“People often say kids won’t eat veg, but when we grew lettuce they munched the lot, just to see what something they’d grown tasted like. A whole row was devoured in minutes.”

The Gang has been a lifeline for one six-year-old, Michael Carter, whose Nain is in hospital.

The Leader:

Dave Bullough, Assistant Manager of the Land picking the runner beans with some help from young members of the Garden Gang

Michael’s mum, Jade Carter, said: “I can’t thank The Land team enough for organising this, as well as the High Sheriff organisation for the Crimebeat grant.

“I’m having to go hospital visiting every day and Michael is naturally concerned about his Nain, but these gardening sessions have been a fantastic distraction. They’ve taken his mind off worrying and given him tons of fun. He’s taken up growing strawberries in our own garden now. It’s amazing.”

Stephanie Catherall, High Sheriff of Clwyd, said Michael’s story was testimony to the value of supporting such community projects.

The Leader:

Riley Pogletta

She said: “Crimebeat funding gives young people a unique opportunity to use their energy and imagination to develop specific initiatives to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

“This is a very special project benefitting the whole community, young and old. It will be a positive contribution to the lives of the residents in Plas Madoc area. Being part of a friendly, safe community where people look out for one another is one of the most valuable things we can have in life.”

Police Community Support Officer Purdy Jones, who visited the project with fellow PCSO Neil Green, said it offered amazing opportunities for local youngsters.

The Leader:

High Sheriff Stephanie Catherall with Finn Gibbons and Tom Savage

She said: “This is such an incredible facility for the local community. You can see immediately how much the children enjoy coming here and that it is a really positive force for the future.”

Local parent, Lisa Akul, of Plas Madoc estate, said her sons, Charlie, seven, and Dylan, five, loved The Land adventure playground and couldn’t wait to attend the Garden Gang sessions.

She said: “They get so excited about coming here. They’ve learned new skills in such a fun way and Charlie’s been keen to do the gardening at home. He’s saved me a job by doing all the pruning – it’s brilliant!”