A West Lothian village has come together to celebrate the anniversaries of two eco-friendly local groups that sit at the very heart of the community.

The Winchburgh Community Growing Group will this week celebrate its fifth anniversary while the Winchburgh Wombles, which help keep the area litter-free, will turn three years old.

The milestones were marked on Saturday (June 3) with a celebratory party in the one-and-a-half-acre community growing garden in Auldcathie Park, Scotland’s largest new district park. The growing area is within the repurposed landfill site  and was handed over to the award-winning growing group by Winchburgh Developments Limited (WDL) in September 2021 to provide space in the park for the community to come together over a love of growing.

More than 50 local people attended the celebration, where they enjoyed fruit punch made from produce from the garden and a cake inspired by Auldcathie Park, as well as a DJ and live music from a piper. Guests were also given the first look at the park’s new sensory garden which features a rainbow archway and has been specifically designed to stimulate and engage all five senses and sponsored by Taylor Wimpey, one of the homebuilders in the village .

The growing group was founded in 2018 as a result of two residents coming forward through the consultation for the Auldcathie Park design and wanted to  help connect and build a new growing community in the rapidly expanding village. The fledgling group was initially gifted 10  planters by Winchburgh Developments which were placed throughout the community for residents to enjoy and , with local volunteers and businesses encouraged to adopt and care for them. Since then, volunteers have dedicated more than 25,000 hours to the group and it has grown to become a key part of the community, with more than 50 planters located around the village with a mix of fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers. It has since run planting projects with the local schools and nursery, distributed free seeds during the pandemic, led a mass tree planting event in the  new community woodland , hosted popular events for Halloween and Christmas in its Community Cabin, and provided endless local people with an opportunity to engage with nature and enjoy the mental and physical benefits that collective gardening can bring. Their efforts have been rewarded by achieving two silver Scotland In Bloom awards.

John West, Co-founder, and Chair  of Winchburgh Community Growing Group, said: “The party was a huge celebration of everything that the Growers and the Wombles have achieved since starting out. There have been many highlights over the last five years, but getting the keys to the Community Growing  Area in Auldcathie Park is definitely the jewel in the crown for me. From walking through the area when it was still a landfill site to working in close partnership with Winchburgh Developments to make the village a greener place – it’s been an amazing journey so far. It all goes to show what you can do with an idea and a barren piece of land!”

The Winchburgh Wombles, which was inspired by the dedication already being shown by local litter-pickers, was formally established in June 2020 as the Country came out of lockdown. It brought  a new activity for walkers and enabled everyone to take part but still keeping a distance but equally feeling a part  of a ‘collective group’ with an aim to keep the village tidy. Use of innovative digital recording enabled  everyone  to see the impact they were having and kept everyone connected,  Funded by Winchburgh Developments, the initiative encourages residents to pick up litter from the area and keep it looking beautiful. Wombles are rewarded for their work with tokens that can be redeemed at local businesses such as Zac & Co Coffee and the Wee Winchburgh Café . The money raised by the Wombles through their work is reinvested into future growing projects in the village – with those who take part able to choose what the money is spent on.

Aileen Murdoch, a Winchburgh resident for 35 years, initiated a litter-pick in the village before the formal advent of the group and is now one of more than 20 Wombles who regularly patrol the streets and bag rubbish.

She said: “It really started as a way to go for a walk but with a purpose, and I began to really enjoy it. Other people joined in, but we’re now in the happy position that work is drying up as there’s not so much litter in the village. The local Scouts, Cubs and Beavers as well as members of the Winchburgh Violets football team all do regular litter-picks to keep the village tidy, so altogether, it’s a real community effort.”

Penny Lochhead, Community, Sports and Greenspace Manager for Winchburgh Developments Limited, said: “We’d like to congratulate The Winchburgh Community Growing Group and the Winchburgh Wombles on reaching their milestone anniversaries. Both groups do incredible work and bring so much to the local community – whether it be through providing opportunities for school pupils to learn about gardening and sustainability, helping create green spaces for everyone to enjoy, sharing produce and seeds, or helping keep the area beautiful through litter picking. It has been a huge pleasure to work alongside the host of amazing volunteers and  John and  Aileen bring the community together in ways which everyone admires – real community heroes .The two groups are both amazing examples of what can happen when communities and developers collaborate to make exciting visions come to life.”