Founder Paul Cox Tells Us All About Nottz Garden Project: A Volunteer-Led Project Building Community Resilience and Food Growing Skills

Words: Paul Cox
Sunday 26 November 2023
reading time: min, words

Founder Paul Cox tells us all about Nottz Garden Project: a volunteer-led project building community resilience and food growing skills through creative, art-filled green spaces. Welcoming all to stop by and pick ripe veg at their Gamble Street Corner plot, whilst distributing it through Himmah food bank with instructions on how to use it, they’ve started a little fresh food revolution in Radford…

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I grew up around Hyson Green, Forest Fields & Radford in the eighties. It’s always been a multicultural and rapidly changing area, sometimes it feels like you could be anywhere in the world. I think of it as the welcoming face of Nottz.

The area does have its challenges: 33% of kids live in poverty, 46% of elderly residents get pension credit and male life expectancy is 73 years versus the national average of eighty.

Rewind to the middle of the pandemic, the exploding food bank use since the arrival of Tory austerity in 2010 was brought into sharp focus as ‘normal’ people started relying on foodbanks too. I contacted Himmah, Nottingham’s biggest independent foodbank, to see if they were interested in having a supply of fresh vegetables from our allotment. They were up for it - they weren’t really getting much fresh food at the time.

It all started there really, delivering veg each week. Being around the foodbank, talking to the people collecting food parcels, seeing their survival stories first hand really made the poverty in the community a reality. The proper love and kindness coming out of Himmah was a real inspiration too.

I started digging deeper into subjects like food justice, food swamps and food deserts, fresh food provision, the dominance of big food corps in local areas, and I realised there was a much deeper issue going on than just giving people enough calories to get by.

Even though 33% of kids in Radford are living in poverty, 38% of them are obese, what the hell?! A diet of cheap and convenient easy options, like chips and burgers, chocolate, fizzy pop and crisps are causing an epidemic. YouGov research found that almost 116,000 kids in the UK have zero fresh vegetables in their daily diet and more get nothing like the right amount.

People in deep poverty look to food that fills them up and is cheap - long term health is secondary. Fresh veg is a total luxury, but it shouldn’t be like that. Having grown up on my dad’s allotment eating all kinds of veg and then going on to grow veg wherever I’ve been, it feels like fresh vegetables are a human right.

Nottz Garden Project started to seem like a necessity, so the veg growing and donating to Himmah ramped up, the format changed to a veg bag selection that could be easily distributed with the other food parcels, a veg guide was attached, explaining what the veg is and how to use it. Veg was supplied to some local cooking classes to improve cooking skills and encourage healthy eating.

I’d been reading about free food growers like Project Eats and Urban Tilth in the States and Edible Bristol in the UK, then discovering places like the Hope Garden set up by Grenfell Survivors and The Garden of Earthly Delights set up on a vacant lot in London.

Gamble Street Corner is growing community resilience, providing fresh healthy food, empowering people to grow their own food, and just being a nice nature filled, colourful, clean space where people bring their kids to look at the flowers, pick the veg or just sit on the wall and take it all in

The penny dropped – why not just grow veg and flowers right in the middle of the area that needs help?

In October 2022 I noticed a small plot of land I’d walked past hundreds of times on the junction of Forest Road West and Gamble Street, near Alfreton Road. A quick measure told me it was seventeen metres by three metres, pretty big but in a mess, full of rubbish and weeds… This was to become Gamble Street Corner.

Due to its location a stone’s throw from the foodbank, Gamble Street Corner would be a joint project with Himmah and in February 2023 a motley crew of five we started the clear-up. We found syringes and all sorts amongst the rubbish, but five skip bags later we had ground to work with.

As we started clearing the ground and painting the mural ‘Veggies for Radford’ on the back wall, the community started to wonder what we were up to. On telling people that we were going to grow veggies and flowers for people to harvest, the vast majority thought it was a great idea but that it probably wouldn’t work. People told us that it would get wrecked, that kids would ruin it, that we ought to put a fence up and that we must be mad…

Undaunted (well, a little bit daunted) we carried on, and by May we were planting out the first seedlings (courgettes!). That felt like a massive step on the journey, the community was going to get the garden and access to fresh food they deserved. 

Barring a few incidents in the early days (stolen hose pipes and lifted tomato plants) Gamble Street Corner has been really respected and valued by the community… and the best bit? Veg is harvested on a regular basis, local favourites being salad leaves, French beans, courgettes and callaloo.

Community event days have been key in letting people know what we’re up to and creating engagement with the garden: Tomato Day in June (where we gave away 200 tomato plants for the community to grow their own), Tacos on the Corner in July (free tacos using veg grown on the corner), a Flowers and Bees Day in September (making seed bombs, a themed mural and pollinator plant giveaway). In August a ‘Little Free Library’ was installed on the corner in partnership with Nottingham Writers Studio. The impact has been amazing with regular refills needed to keep the library stocked.

In its own way Gamble Street Corner is growing community resilience, providing fresh healthy food, empowering people to grow their own food, and just being a nice nature filled, colourful, clean space where people bring their kids to look at the flowers, pick the veg or just sit on the wall and take it all in.

At this point it’s worth a shoutout to everyone who makes Nottz Garden Project work; a small group of cool people who really share the vision, give their time, make it friendly, welcoming and community-focused. They know who they are - big love gang.

So, what’s next? Well, year two on Gamble Street Corner is going to be bigger and better. More community events, more giveaways, more growing, more free food.

I’ve just agreed to start up a second garden on Raleigh Street in Radford in All Saints Churchyard. The veggies and flowers grown will be free to the community, and our local charity partners SFiCE are also on the same site, with their social café for the homeless and projects for refugees and other vulnerable adults in our city.

In the immediate future there’s a Community Meal going on at Primary in Radford (sharing the Gamble Street Corner project and talking about food systems), the launch of NG Seedz (a seed saving and growing project) an idea for a food book, and also a fundraiser! Making Nottz Garden Project an even more impactful resource and growing community resilience is where it’s at, and who knows where it will lead.

Go to to donate to Nottz Garden Project


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