Ballymac’s blooming marvellous

Lee Canning, Colin Canning, Danny McNamee. John O'hagan and Jim McCallion with some of the seedlings at the Community Garden in Ballymagroarty. (0904jB42)
Lee Canning, Colin Canning, Danny McNamee. John O'hagan and Jim McCallion with some of the seedlings at the Community Garden in Ballymagroarty. (0904jB42)

Michael Radcliffe is his wife’s full-time carer.

Michael lives in Stephen’s Court in Ballymagroarty and when he’s not busy caring for his wife he has his hands full looking after his two young children.

The Shaw Court community garden is situated very close to Michael’s house and after his wife heard about the good work going on in the garden she told him to take some time to himself and go along to find out more.

“I really enjoy coming here - the craic is good and I am even learning new things too,” said Michael smiling.

Michael, along about a dozen other men from the local area, are part of the Ballymagroarty Men’s Health group and for the last four weeks they have been learning how to grow and harvest healthy vegetables, fruit and herbs.

“I come from a civil engineering and construction background but when it comes to sewing seeds and looking after plants, I am a complete novice,” he laughed.

“I didn’t really know any of the other men before joining the men’s health group but my wife will tell you herself, it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.

“Not only does it mean that I get myself out of the house for a few hours every week but if gives my wife peace and quiet too,” joked Michael.

Several members of the Ballymagroarty Men’s Health group are also members of the Springtown Activity and Horticulture club.

John O’Hagan lives in one of the houses right beside the community garden and he said its creation was one of the best things to happen in the local area in recent years.

“This garden can be used by any of the local groups and with me living right next door to it I am able to keep an eye out and make sure everything is ok.

“The men are here today to finish their four week healthy gardening programme but equally important is the fun and craic they all have.

“We can’t always guarantee that the weather will be good but we can always guarantee that there will be plenty of laughs,” said John.

Local man Lee Canning got in on the grow your own revolution in Ballymagroarty a few years ago and since that time he has completed a course in horticulture at North West Regional College and has set-up his own landscape gardening company.

Lee facilitated the Ballymagroarty Men’s Health event at the Shaw’s Court community garden and said he really enjoyed working with the men.

“I think what makes working on this project extra special for me is the fact that I am from Ballymagroarty and it’s given me the chance to put something back into my local community.

“It’s the first time I have ever done anything like this and I have to say that I have enjoyed every single minute of it.

“The men in the health group are amazing to work with. Some of them really know their stuff and all you have to do is look at how amazing this community garden is. It’s an absolute credit to the men here - they deserve all of the credit.”

Lee explained whilst teaching the men how to grow and look after vegetables was the main aim of the project he stressed the importance of encouraging men of all ages to consider eating more healthy foods.

“All of the vegetables, fruit and herbs that are produced here are totally healthy so it’s about showing the men how to plant the seeds, look after them, harvest the end product and then maybe consider a more healthy diet,” he said.

Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank Community Partnership (B.H.C.P.) and Neighbourhood Health Improvement Project Health Development worker for the Outer West, Roxanne Nixon explained how integral the men’s health group is to the local community.

“A lot of the men who are in the group are unemployed or live alone and this is a chance for them to get out of the house and mix with other men and learn new things.

“The main aim of the group is to encourage a more healthy lifestyle amongst the men but by them just being here and being part of something it’s helping their mental health - it stops them from feeling isolated.

“The men in the group are a pleasure to work with and when they are not busy trying to take the hand out of me they muck in with the hard work,” said Roxanne laughing.

For further information on the Ballymagroarty Men’s Health Group contact Roxanne Nixon at the B.H.C.P. offices on 028 7127 1977.