CAFE — Garden Project – UPDATE 20.7.13

The CAFE Garden Project is the first issue which the CAFE Group is going to work on following the three group meetings that were held at the Welcome Centre in Coventry.  The project has been selected because it was the activity which most people in the initial group had an interest in.

Our first step is to further research the scope of the project by working with a group of “Age Friendly Experts” to identify what opportunities are available in Coventry related to gardens and gardening.   It is anticipated that most of this research will be a desktop study and the research group will meet weekly to discuss the progress they are making.

Vernon Taylor, a GrumbleSmiles Trustee, has secured the support of “Florence” who is a former BBC Gardeners’ World Producer and with her help our intention is to produce a short YouTube video as a demonstration how we can better inform and connect older people in Coventry.   We will then move on to other subjects.

This page of the blog will be used to report on the project’s progress and to notify people of the venue and date of future meetings.


Because of the location outside of Coventry we only had a small number of  “expert researchers”.   They were all keen gardeners and  their enthusiasm moved us forward.    They have gone away to begin researching — gardens to visit / garden centres and gardening clubs and societies.   A few more participants would be helpful and anyone is welcome to come along.


The venue turned out to be a very good one.  The café itself had a few customers but we were able to sit in the theatre lobby immediately outside the café which was quieter and enabled us to talk comfortably amongst ourselves.  Again on a small number of people attended but that enabled us to have a very good quality discussion.

We first of all reviewed the research that Frances and Maureen had completed in the previous week.  The details of which are in the comments below this blog.  Whilst the information available from websites was useful, it didn’t give us sufficient knowledge to identify why they would be particularly good places to visit.  More work would be needed to establish the particular “Age Friendly” aspects of locations and some photos would be required to avoid people being disappointed if they made the effort to visit.  We still intend to pursue the Garden Project as a demonstration of how we can improve the quality of Age Friendly information in Coventry.

We then switched our discussion to considering why more people aren’t attending and felt that one reason was a lack of understanding of what we are trying to achieve.  It was also felt that the narrow single subject of gardening and the uncertainty of what is involved in making a YouTube video might also be putting people off.

We also had received a useful communication from John Archer who had attended the Ryton meeting but subsequently felt that the direction we were heading would not necessarily have relevance to the majority of socially isolated older people.  John is the Chairman of Styvechale Residents’ Association and the group felt there might be potential in working with John to address the issues in a more defined geographical area.  John Graham agreed to contact John Archer and discuss this idea further.

The group agreed in the week ahead to research what videos are available on YouTube that relate to gardening and might give an idea of the kind of information we need to gather.

Subsequent to the meeting I decided to visit the Central Library to see if they could assist us in any way, particularly in relation to meeting venue and facilities.  In terms of computer support, the library service has free computers available in libraries around the city for signed up members.  The Central Library is the largest and has 46 computer stations – most of which are used by students during the day, but they can be booked by anyone.  At the time I visited, there were 10 stations which were blocked booked by a group and no doubt this could be done by GrumbleSmiles.  The library service is also starting a one-one computer learning course referred to as GEN2GEN which links younger people with older people.  This could be a useful link to anyone who wants to enhance their computer skills.

I then visited BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Radio.  They have a suite of 12 computers in their reception area and they run a number of computer courses.  There is a specific course called “First Click” which they have been trying to get started without success. It’s run by two retired teachers and is free and flexible in terms of what support it provides.  They have been struggling to find participants and it sounds an ideal resource for the GrumbleSmiles project.  I will follow this up with course tutors and report back.


At the next meeting two new people joined us who had previously been at the Welcome Centre Surveys.  We were also joined by Christine Broughan of the Age Research Centre.  We spent the early part of the meeting finding out about peoples’ backgrounds and getting to know each other better.  We talked briefly about the garden project but at this point it doesn’t seem there is sufficient interest from enough people to move the project forward.  It was decided that we needed to be clearer about where we were heading overall before we could continue with the project as a demonstration.   It may also be better to directly approach some of the existing Garden Societies in Coventry.

John confirmed that in the afternoon he was due to see John Archer, the Chairman of the Styvechale Residents Association, and would invite him to the next meeting if there was a possibility of working with them.  John also agreed to contact the BBC CWR Team who are running the “First Click” project to see if there is any overlapping area of interest with us.


This time the group included a number of new people including John Archer from the Styvechale Grange Residents Association and Alex and Yvonne Robinson.  Laura Cole came along from Coventry University.  Most of the conversation focused on why more people weren’t coming along to the meetings.  The first issue was felt to be the “garden project” which was not of interest to the majority of people, even though they have an interest in gardening.  The second barrier was thought to be “fear of computers” in spite of the fact that 80% of our  original group had computers.  Another issue was felt to be the lack of a “free lunch” which was felt to be a useful draw for some of the previous attendees.  Finally, it was acknowledged that many of the attendees were not themselves socially isolated and already had a network of friends and activities – therefore they may have little to gain from involvement in the project.

The discussion then turned to John Archer’s interest in tackling social isolation in Styvechale Grange.  The area is tightly geographically defined and has 1700 houses but no community facilities except for schools.  From John’s research it was felt that there were about 50% of the population aged over 50.  It was also thought that 83 people categorised themselves in poor health.  John intends to do further research to see if he can identify the number of older people in contact with Social Services and the number who are digitally connected with Broadband.  John has already tried to recruit volunteers to make regular telephone contact with lonely older people on the estate but no-one came forward to help.  John has gone away to consider whether there is potential for a GrumbleSmiles CAFE group on the estate.  Another possibility is a joint project with Bob Fryer who is the Chair of a Residents’ Association in Finham.

Frances Fielding also went away to consider whether there was a possibility of establishing a project in Cheylesmore.

Alex and Yvonne Robinson have a background in computers and adult education and have been successfully running computer training courses, mainly for older people, in Coventry for a number of years.  They came along to find out more about the GrumbleSmiles project and have agreed to stay involved to help the project evolve.



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10 Responses to CAFE — Garden Project – UPDATE 20.7.13

  1. Margaret Emerton says:

    Great idea – a pity that the first meeting is based outside the city which makes it almost impossible for those unable to drive to get too Includes me). Look forward to hearing more.

    • john graham says:

      You are quite right Margaret. The next informal meeting is going to be in the Belgrade Theatre café at 10.30 am on Friday 5th July. Hope to see you there.

      • diane says:

        Dear John, Unable to make the 5th July meeting as I have the electrican working in the house, so please give my apologies. Good venue for meetings. Can you send info. of meetings minutes as an e-mail for those who cannot attend meetings.

  2. Frances Fielding says:

    Here is some garden information I have been able to find.

    Coventry Garden Centre Brownshill Green Rd Run gardening club
    Allesley Toilets & wheelchairs available
    Coventry CV5 9PB GYO plot hire scheme
    0844 2885130 Tool & small machinery hire
    Carry to car service

    Russells Garden Centre Mill Hill Landscape & garden design
    Baginton CV8 3AG Hydroponic equipment
    024 76303627 Unusual cottage garden plants & grasses
    Disabled parking
    Secret garden

    Smiths Nurseries Stoneleigh Road Toilets
    Baginton Disabled parking
    024 76303382 Café

    Homebase Various locations Toilets
    Carry to car service
    Wide range of equipment & plants

    B & Q Various locations Toilets
    Carry to car service
    Wide range of equipment & plants

    The Range Austin Drive Toilets
    Courthouse Green Carry to car service
    Coventry Wide range of equipment & plants
    024 76665309 Café

    Local independent Various locations

    • john graham says:

      A good start Francis. Many thanks.
      Now we need to add the extra mile information that can add Age Friendly knowledge i.e. :-

      Do they have concessionary discounts for older people?
      Are they on a bus route ? If so which one ?

      Maybe some of our other “expert researchers” can answer these Questions.

  3. Parks to visit in Coventry area
    Listed on internet
    Garden of International Friendship in Hales Street
    Greyfriars Green
    The Peace Garden in Bayley Lane
    Priory Gardens in Priory Row
    these are all very small areas
    Two more parks I would add – Allesley and Calludon
    War Memorial Park well worth a visit
    Coombe Country Park is a great place for an outing
    Russells Quarry Garden Mill Hill Bagington

    I would add Ryton Pools which now have a very good playground to take Grandchildren!
    Draycote Waters is not too far away, very good for prams bikes and wheelchairs.

    • john graham says:

      Thanks Maureen. We also need to check the Age Friendly information which should be on their website :-
      do they have toilets / a café / a car park / a near by bus route ?

      The next step maybe to add photographs. I am sure one of our bigger group of “experts” is a good photographer.

  4. We shall be unable to meet with you on Fridays at the present time. This is partly due to the holiday season, we will be away on holiday and visiting family. In Coventry we do have a number of regular commitments including running a walking group with 30 over 55’s membership, this takes up a considerable amount of our time. We feel we cannot give the regular weekly attendance to your project you are planning at the moment. We are grateful for all you hard work and ideas and for the meetings at the Welcome Centre.
    We shall follow your website with interest. Michael & Maureen

    • john graham says:

      You are obviously already doing a great job keeping Coventry “Age Friendly” with your walking club. So I thank you both for coming to the earlier meetings and wish you well for the future.
      Do keep an interest in the GrumbleSmiles blog, may be you could write about your walking experiences and encourage others to stay active. All the best.

  5. Jayne Moore says:

    Hi All,
    I’m glad that the gardening project is continuing and although I am sorry I have not had time to come to the on-going meetings I have been keeping up to date with developments via this blog. Meanwhile I have been considering some of the issues; particularly bearing in mind John Archer’s comment regarding the project being relevant to the majority of socially isolated older people and the need to have a geographical focus.

    I thought it would be useful to flag with the group that Age UK Coventry runs a community garden which offers activities for all abilities. The garden is based on an allotment site at Four Pounds Avenue, Chapelfields, not far from the city centre and is serviced by buses 23 and 23c (unless the timetable has changed again!). This might be a very good opportunity for us to work together.

    The garden provides a practical opportunity for older people to get involved in gardening and meet new people; volunteers are available to support people who come along – be it to garden or just sit and enjoy the surroundings; there are basic toilet facilities and tables and chairs for sitting and enjoying a picnic; part of the site is wheelchair accessible with high level beds making it easy for everyone to join in. Age UK Coventry subsidise the garden so members only need to make a small contribution for each visit – however they can also take home some of the vegetables, fruit and flowers that they help to grow. Additional volunteers are always welcome and it could give the Grumblesmiles expert gardeners the chance to share their skills and knowledge with other people.

    If anyone is interested please contact me on 024 76 433042 Jayne Moore, Involvement Officer

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