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  • Writer's pictureMichael Stripling

Arkwright Meadows Community Gardens Project

Earlier this year we were approached by a returning customer who we had previously installed External Wall Insulation for. Elly works part-time for Arkwright Meadows Community Gardens, who had been looking for a company to help them with a solution for collecting rainwater. They wanted to be able to use the rainwater that runs off the poly tunnel roof to create a sustainable irrigation system for watering the plants and vegetables. The existing set up using mains water was very costly and inefficient.

“What a great idea!” we thought and didn’t see any reason why this couldn’t be done; we always love a challenge! In 2001, Arkwright Meadows Community Gardens was created by local Meadows residents coming together to transform a disused, unloved, rubbish strewn playing field into a green space for the local people to use. Residents now enjoy the benefits of a safe space for family events, place of learning and the opportunity to buy freshly grown fruit and vegetables at affordable prices.

By July 2003, with the help of volunteers and partnerships with local training schemes, the Gardens started to transform; native hedging and orchard trees were planted, new members signed up. A triple-skinned poly tunnel was erected and the curved walls and raised beds built.Over the following years the gardens have further developed into an oasis in the heart of the Meadows, with residents regularly coming to buy vegetables, hundreds of attendees at events and numerous daily visitors.

Over the years the Gardens have received a number of awards including the Big Wheel Workplace Challenge and the ‘Regeneration and Renewable’ category of the Nottingham Post Environment Awards, both in 2013.In 2014 The Meadows won the Urban Community Category of East Midlands in Bloom 2014 and gained a prestigious Silver Gilt Award. The RHS Judges praised AMC Gardens as “an amazing community asset”.In 2014 won The Queens Award for Voluntary Service. An inspiring community story, where local people have come together from all different backgrounds and cultures to create this fantastic space, for all to enjoy. We share a similar ethos, yet in very different sectors. Both delivering and promoting sustainable and low carbon living. What could be more fitting than working with the community garden to create and develop a rainwater harvesting system, which will provide recycled water for life! Fitting a rainwater harvesting system to a poly tunnel comes with its challenges and constraints. Plenty of companies on the internet want to sell you the products but not many want the responsibility of providing the technical detail and solutions.

Despite being aware of the possible difficulties, Cobalt agreed to take on the project and got to work drawing up various options. We have previously installed rainwater harvesting systems on a smaller residential scale, so we needed to think bigger! Our initial considerations were -- How do we get the water of the roof and into a gutter/land drain, taking into account limited fixing options?- Understanding water usage, to determine the recommended tank capacity, tank sizes can vary quite significantly.- The space available to keep the tank, an over ground tank or underground tank? do we have enough space? - Drainage details, how to get the water to the tank, once the tank is full then where will the overflow run to, main drains or soak away- Would a manual pump or an electrical sump pump be required, depends all on how the water is going to be used, If an electrical sump pump, can we get an electrical feed to the pump? - Overall material content and costs, installation process and labor requirements considering the limited budget.

It soon became clear why these suppliers don’t want to take on the responsibility… There’s a lot to consider! We met up with the team at the gardens and talked through our options. We specified a 3000 litre underground tank, the tank was 2.5m wide by 2.5m long and 1.6m deep, requiring a lot of digging to provide a suitable space. A submersible pump, capable of feeding the irrigation system inside the poly tunnel and a hose pipe or sprinkler system for outside. The project got underway and the site team arrived and began preparation. We came across some early stumbling blocks due to the ground levels etc which made it difficult for us to get the water falling in the direction needed. This resulted in some on the job specification changes which we soon overcame.

It was just our luck to choose the hottest week of the year to undertake the work…! However, as always, our team continued to work through the 30-degree conditions to successfully complete the installation. We had such great feedback from all the staff at the gardens. Cobalt were highly praised for working tirelessly and in a professional manner throughout the project. The team and the company were both thanked and complimented by AMC Gardens for delivering the ideal solution for the initial brief.

Soon after completion we had a (much needed) short heavy downpour. To everyone’s surprise this filled the tank in no time, since then the tank is being used daily to water the gardens, with plenty of water left over!

Thank you to AMC Gardens for reaching out to Cobalt with this opportunity. It has been an excellent experience and has been extremely rewarding to be able to volunteer our services and knowledge and give back to the community in this way.

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