The Cornfield Project is an exciting local initiative that has been developed by the Aspire Community Partnership. Aspire is a collaborative consortium of local grass-roots community groups that have come together to have a positive impact on the lives of residents within local communities by improving self-esteem, confidence, hope and expectations. Aspire is made up of a core group of Focus on Family, Millburn Community Association, Building Ballysally Together, Oasis Causeway and Coleraine Education Community Project with other groups from the wider Causeway Coast and Glens area also involved.
The Cornfield Project is supported by a range of key partners including The Woodland Trust (who have licensed the site to Focus on Family), The Conservation Volunteers, Northern Health and Social Services Trust and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council (Biodiversity Officer).
The Cornfield Project has been shortlisted as one of three NI Flagship finalists in the Grow Wild programme, competing with projects in Belfast and L/Derry to be the winning site. There will be a national public vote from 6th October – 1st November 2015 and the winner of this vote will receive £120,000 to implement the site plans.
The vision for this project is to: “Work with Grow Wild to transform the community use of the Cornfield site and with it people’s perception of nature and of each other using wildflowers to excite their involvement. We will bridge two divergent communities through a massive riot of colourful fun and inspiring nature activity with wildflower planting, sensory gardens, community allotments, outdoor classrooms, youth hang-outs, woodland, foraging, public walkways, wildlife and much more. We will bring understanding and appreciation of nature to a local and national audience by providing a beautiful place full of activity for everyone to enjoy.”
This is a fantastic opportunity for the entire Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council area to benefit from – it will be promoted as a wonderful space for everyone to enjoy and will be marketed to attract external engagement as well as local usage. The project will provide a number of key legacies for the Borough:
- Bringing people together who would otherwise not have mixed
- Providing an area that everyone is proud of and has the opportunity to engage in and improve long term
- Connecting people to nature and activities and supporting ongoing development in a diverse range of interactive ways
- Enhancing the physical and mental wellbeing of all sections of the communit
Grow Wild funding will make it possible for this area to benefit now and for many years to come by:
- An explosion of colour through planting and maintenance of a varied and exciting display of wildflowers, helping local people change perceptions of themselves and of their natural environment. The wildflowers will provide a beautiful visual engagement, attracting people from all walks of life (ages, backgrounds and abilities), who will then go on to fully interact with the site through engagement in social, educational and developmental events and activities that support a host of local needs such as poor mental/physical health, social isolation, lack of community involvement, poor education, employment potential and lack of aspiration.
- Long term volunteer opportunities for people to engage in ongoing maintenance, site development, supporting visiting groups and much more.
- Enabling groups of people, who otherwise would not visit other areas, to get involved in common themed activities, therefore breaking down fear, mistrust and negative attitudes of the ‘other side’.
- A long term maintenance plan with volunteers to support the project. To motivate volunteers and enhance their skills-base, training will be provided (through links with experienced practitioners from Woodland Trust/Conservation Volunteers/University/ College and others) in: allotment development, grow your own projects, wildflower sourcing/planting and maintenance, woodland and other planting/maintenance, mowing, raking, litter removal.
- Partnership working to provide lasting networks – range of key organisations and individuals promote the natural world through the site and ongoing activities, programmes and events. We will also promote this through Housing Executive and other agencies as a flagship site for others to visit and be inspired by. Our aim is to promote learning from what we have achieved and to inspire other estates and deprived areas to deliver similar projects for their communities.
- Improving health – NHSC Trust have identified a number of key strategies that The Cornfield supports, providing long-term health benefits to a huge number of participants. Strategies include: Transforming Your Care (Review of Health and Social Care); Fair Society, Healthy Lives (Health Inequalities); Fitter Future For All (Obesity); Making Life Better (Public Health Framework); Healthier Future (Health and Wellbeing); Promoting Mental Health Strategy; Protect Life Shared Vision (Suicide Prevention)
- Sustainability – Activities will be developed to generate income that will be redistributed into local community initiatives achieving income not reliant on grants – activities include educational visits from local early years, nursery, primary school, links to secondary school outdoors projects, physical activity programmes, health initiatives, grow your own projects, development of allotments, growing produce, links with Cafe, selling produce, developing products, family fun days, themed-events, and links to recycling initiatives (e.g. composting).
- Capturing lasting benefits by measuring project use, gathering information on social impact (health, social, environmental, well-being impacts) for the area and the financial return on investment. We will monitor and evaluate events to gather understanding of what the activities and developments mean for our Borough – and to support our residents to take ownership and control of the future direction of the project.