Celebrations were in full bloom last night as the Winchburgh Community Growing Group won silver for their third year entry at the prestigious Keep Scotland Beautiful Awards.

The local group was awarded silver at the annual ceremony, which took place at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for the first time in person. They were the only entrant from West Lothian in this year’s awards, and were proud to fly the flag for community growing in the county.

At the event, the group was represented by volunteers John West, Sarah and Brian Ross, Aileen Murdoch from the Winchburgh Wombles, Mandy Baird who has worked tirelessly for years volunteering and to add splashes of colour around the community, and Penny Lochhead from Winchburgh Developments Ltd. Each of the attendees have been supportive of the Growing Group and Wombles since the ideas were suggested, and have worked continuously to achieve another award. The table centrepiece was created by local Mags Small, which consisted of a fruit and vegetable basket with a cone and litter representing both groups. It was admired by everyone attending. 

The silver certificate is judged in three categories – 40% horticultural achievement (silver), 30% environmental responsibility (silver), and 30% community participation, in which the group was awarded gold for its work throughout the year supporting community projects – and recognises outstanding work in all three areas in line with the environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful’s vision to champion a greener and more sustainable Scotland.

Winchburgh Community Growing Group was founded in 2018 after two residents came forward during the consultation for the design of Auldcathie Park and suggested they could help connect and build a community of growers in the rapidly expanding village. Winchburgh Developments Limited was keen to support their ambitious plans for local people to experience the physical and mental benefits that collective growing and volunteering can bring, and gifted the group a 1.5-acre area within the new 85-acre Auldcathie District Park to base their community growing from in 2021.

John West, co-founder and chair of Winchburgh Community Growing Group, said: “Winning silver again this year is a real recognition of all the hard work from the volunteers over the past year. 

 “The whole point of the project when we formed it over five years ago was to bring the community together. Winchburgh is expanding – there are thousands of new houses coming, so the idea was community cohesion: getting people to meet their neighbours and make food with the produce. People who didn’t know each other beforehand become best friends.”

He continued: “The Keep Scotland Beautiful awards really help with the vision for the project as everyone wants to step up and help achieve a good score for the Winchburgh community. We welcome anyone who has just moved to the village, or who has always lived here and wants to help us go for gold in 2024 to get involved in any way they can. Lots of opportunities and little things can make a big difference by working together. Our project is so unique as we are judges against some well-established and amazing groups we met on the night. It’s hard to compare apples for pears but we are continuously learning and listening to feedback to achieve a good score at future awards!”

John said the growing group had also become a key part of the community. “When we cut the red ribbon to open the site, it was just a barren piece of land; now every single day I see so many people enjoying the park. It’s a community space that’s bringing people together.”

The growing group is based in the heart of the park and continues to attract new volunteers to meet, share the space, grow and share produce. We also love having Park Run every Saturday and Nico’s Coffee Hut nearby, serving a delicious range of treats to enjoy while relaxing in the park. Anyone is welcome to pick from the growing space, take a tour through the paths, or join in and volunteer every Saturday.The group also runs planting projects with the local schools and nurseries, distributed free seeds, tomato and strawberry plants donated by SRUC during the pandemic, led a mass tree planting event in the new community woodland, and hosts popular events for Halloween and Christmas around its Community Cabin.

Penny Lochhead, Community, Sports and Greenspace Manager for Winchburgh Developments, said: “We are so delighted that the Winchburgh Community Growing Group has won silver at the Keep Scotland Beautiful Awards. It is a testament to all the volunteers and all their hard work over the last few years, particularly the fact they were recognised with gold for their community work in the judges remarks. The group is such an asset to the village – we have seen first-hand the positive impact their work has on the local community. The award is very well-deserved!”