Words by Angela Clark
A community farm in Dumbarton is being brought back to life and is helping people improve their mental and physical well-being.
The 15.5 acre site at Dumbarton’s Castlehill Road will provide a place where people can take time out of their daily stresses of life.
They can grow their own vegetables or get involved in the horticulture side of things where they will learn new skills whilst improving their chances of finding employment.
One person who is already reaping the benefits of volunteering at the site is local resident Andrew Baird.
Andrew has spent the last 10 years of his life struggling with homelessness and isolation from the outside world.
Andrew said: “I had a lot of confidence issues and health issues, so it was about getting back into a social environment around people in an employable setting.
“Volunteering has got me in a regular routine and is helping get my body back to work.
“Even the confidence of going somewhere and not being nervous about doing stuff I know nothing about and meeting people that I don’t know, it’s helped me out a lot.”
Andrew has become a familiar face in his community and enjoys chatting and getting to know the people from his local area.
He has particular interest in horticulture where he finds he can connect with nature and find peace within himself.
He said: “When you are in there and it’s all wild and you start digging or cutting out a root or old path that used to be there or making a new path you can see what’s happening,
“You see an improvement and that’s satisfying in itself, you can see the area being improved.
“I’m trying to get back to where I was, get my confidence back up and hopefully get a job.
“I still need qualifications and training and hopefully I will get this type of job working outdoors, working maybe in gardens, horticultural something like that. I really enjoy it a lot.”
Fellow volunteer Steven Corrigan recently started helping at the site.
He is enjoying being outdoors in the fresh air and doing something that is having a positive effect on his mental health.
He said: “Andrew suggested to me to get involved.
“It sounded interesting and I wanted to get out the house and have something productive to do to help my mental health.
“Getting some exercise outdoors in the fresh air is good, I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes from what it looks like just now and how it will develop.”
Something for Everyone
Alternatives community drug service took over the site from West Dunbartonshire Council in 2020.
They are keen to encourage local people to get involved, connect with nature and help their well-being.
Claire Travis Horticulture & Wildlife Supervisor said: “Engaging with nature in a green space is really beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing.
“Over the summer we ran children’s activities up there.
“We have a monthly children’s club, we’ve got community volunteering and we are delivering a programme with local schools who are using the site for their outdoor learning in nature work.
“There will be eight community food growing spaces for local groups.
“We will support them by providing the tools and we will run workshops and training. The space is for everyone to use and enjoy.”
If you would like to get involved, whether it is to improve the area or your own well-being or just to reconnect with your community contact: Claire.Travis@alternativeswd.org