‘Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow’: Unique new project launched

A pioneering new cross-community project has been developed in the Waterside area by representatives from three housing associations working together.

Tuesday, 25th June 2019, 10:15 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th June 2019, 11:15 am
Pictured at the launch of the 'Big Oaks from Little Acorns' health project in the Irish Street Community Centre on Tuesday evening were, from left, Emer McElhinney, Apex Housing, Nyree McMorris, Irish Street Community Centre, Eamon McLaughlin, Hillcrest Trust, Keela Doherty, Whistle Project, Gerard McLaughlin, Men's Shed, Hillcrest Trust, Katrina Heaney, Whistle Project, Austin Kelly, Clanmil Housing Group, and Margaret Cunningham, Habinteg Housing. Absent from the photograph was Caroline McWilliams, Clanmil Housing, co-founder of the project with Emer and Margaret. DER2519-134KM

‘Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow’ will see residents from three housing developments come together through a new walking trail, gardening projects and well being initiatives.

The project has been developed by Habinteg Community Assistant Margaret Cunningham, Emer McElhinney, Good Relations Officer at Apex Housing and Caroline McWilliams, Senior Housing Officer from Clanmil Housing, and will involve residents of Apex’s Clondermott Park, Clanmil’s Somme Park and Habinteg’s Gelvin Gardens.

Margaret explained: The project came about following a conversation at a Big Lunch networking event at the Holywell Trust. Representatives from the Eden Project were there and spoke about potential funding for the planting of indigenous plants in Derry.”

L-R Margaret Cunningham, Habinteg Housing, Emer Mc Elhinney Apex Housing and Caroline Mc Williams, Clanmil Housing

Emer said: “Our tenants are predominantly older people and we thought this was a great opportunity for us to link up, with scope to do a walking route with markers giving information on indigenous plants like the Oak Tree. We got together and started planning.”

The trio have ben working on the ’Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow’ initiative for several months now, culminating in the launch of the project in Irish Street Community Centre last Tuesday.

The three women had also consulted with local tenants who came up with their own additional ideas for the project.

The launch itself was attended by over 50 people, including representatives from various local groups based in traditionally non-aligned areas and also local youth groups and residents. Margaret, Caroline and Emer said the people gathered there really led the process and contributed local knowledge.

The new walking route will involve residents coming together with walk leaders from the various groups. As a result of the community engagement, they are now working to developing shorter loop walks within the areas to ensure people of all abilities can be part of this community initiative.

There are also plans afoot to engage local young people who attend the youth groups in walks and gardening initiatives, which will help to promote inter-generational good relations, discussion and understanding.

“It is great to get buy-in from the local community,” Emer said. “A gardening programme and a total of eight workshops are also taking place looking at native species of plants, health and well being, the importance of walking and a project were we are linking in the youth clubs at Irish Street and Hillcrest House, while collaborating with the Duke of Edinburgh.

Caroline McWilliams said: “We’re delighted that Grow Wild have awarded funding for the first time for a project in the city”.

Margaret added: “The project was also utilising local resources with members of the local Men’s Shed coming on board to build and install seating areas with gardening boxes attached.

“It’s very good for physical health and mental health for people to be able to get outdoors into open spaces, green areas, and engage with other people,”

The project will promote social inclusion in the Waterside in what will be the first partnership walking group of its kind in the city.

It is hoped that the project will develop to link with Sustrans and Walking NI.

Emer said: “The name is quite poignant. The Oak Tree is the symbol of Derry and we hope to see this project grow and become sustainable.

“It is great to see young and older people working together. We are hoping they will buddy up and create bonds between the generations.”