Student, staff and local volunteers with their home grown pumpkins.

It’s pumpkin season at the Exeter Community Garden

Students, staff, alumni and local residents have been working together to grow and harvest a pumpkin patch, just in time for Halloween.

But pumpkins are not the only produce the volunteer gardeners will get to take home this year. With an orchard of traditional and heritage trees, nine raised vegetable beds, a huge variety of fruit and even a honey producing beehive, there is plenty of choice.

Starting as a bare patch of land, the Exeter Community Garden has grown significantly over the last five years. This is largely thanks to Norrie Blackeby, who in 2011 raised the funds required to create this shared green space.

Norrie, Head of Facilities and Central Services from the Students’ Guild, is the garden’s treasurer. She is enthusiastic not only about gardening, but also promoting a strong community amongst the volunteers.

She said: “The Exeter Community Garden promotes the community spirit. I often heard locals saying that they would not normally have a chance to talk to the students in the way they can do in the garden. Everybody pitches in and we all work together as a community.”

The garden, located on the edge of the University’s Streatham Campus off car park B, aims to further the causes of sustainability, biodiversity, healthy eating and well-being, along with strengthening ties between the University and local residents.

In addition, it has served numerous research projects. For example, a raised bed has been set aside for archaeologists to grow ancient plants such as flax and woad and a ‘bug hotel’ made from pallets (aptly called Buckingham Pallet) was created by Engineering staff.

Dr Paul Cleave, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter Business School, and Chairman of the Community Garden said: “My interest in the garden is connected to my research interests in food and the connection of food to place. But I also felt that the Community Garden could certainly benefit the wider community of the University by bringing people together in a therapeutic ‘green gym’ landscape and to share the experience of growing, tending and harvesting.

“I am always pleased to see new members at the garden. Everyone has something to offer and is warmly welcomed. I enjoy seeing members go away with share of the produce, whether fresh vegetables or a few herbs.”

For those less inclined to gardening, the volunteers have also been getting artistic. They are currently creating a seasonal mosaic to decorate a homemade cob bench, using tiles donated by a local shop.

Alyette Tritsch, 22, is studying for a Masters in Politics and International Relations of the Middle East. She said: “Coming to the garden is a nice change from books and studying and I’ve been coming here since the start of my course. It’s good to get outside and do something manual. Aside from getting some great local produce, it’s very nice to just meet other people, from different places and generations and it’s always fun seeing our efforts grow.”

Volunteers meet every Wednesday at 3pm and anybody is welcome to join. For further information, please contact Norrie Blackeby at

Date: 27 October 2016

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