Sunday, 15 September 2013

Creating a Community Garden 10

In a series of posts I have outlined the process by which Nightingale Community Garden in Dinas Powys was created (links below). In June, I described how the garden was flourishing during its first summer. Among the verdant greenery, it was hard to believe that gardening had only started a couple of months previously. Some of the crops were entered in this year’s Dinas Powys Village Show (31 August); Giles Metcalf’s beetroot, for instance, won First Prize.

On Saturday 14 September, the official opening of the Nightingale Community Garden was held. Cllr. Keith Hatton and Elizabeth Millard, of the Dinas Powys Residents’ Group, welcomed everyone, outlined the history of the garden, introduced the special guests, and thanked those who had made important contributions along the way.

Keith had the original idea of doing something with the derelict piece of land, on the footpath that connects Sir Ivor Place and Nightingale Place, which was becoming a focus for anti-social behaviour in the area. With Elizabeth, they put together the first plan for turning it into a Community Garden. At an early stage they gained the support of Mike Ingram, one of the special guests at the event, who is the Operational Manager of Public Housing Services at the Vale of Glamorgan Council. Mike facilitated the smooth transition of the site, from unwanted public housing land to Community Garden.

The Finance Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government Jane Hutt AM placed the garden within the larger context of The Rural Development Plan, which is a joint Welsh Government and European Union strategy. In her short speech, she stressed the importance of finance from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, which along with Welsh Government funding enables projects such as this to happen. Jane also stressed the importance of supporting community-led initiatives.

The Welsh Government funds community projects through Councils. Cllr. Liz Burnett, another of the special guests at the event, is Vale of Glamorgan Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation. The money that comes to the Council for rural regeneration is in her portfolio. The Vale of Glamorgan Council funds its own rural development initiative: Creative Rural Communities.

Rob McGhee of the Community Foodie section of Creative Rural Communities, established to help communities grow their own food, has been involved with the Nightingale Community Garden project from a very early stage. He has been key in obtaining funding and helping to manage the project, including overseeing the contractors who have worked to transform the site. He praised the enthusiasm of the local communities he works with, both in Dinas Powys and in other places were similar projects have been successful such as Treoes. Rob is the one talking in the picture above, with Mike Ingram next to him.

BBC Wales’ weatherman Derek Brockway (above, with Keith) certainly bought the sun with him, which shone throughout proceedings. With a cheery “hello and shw’mae” he gave us an up-to-date weather forecast. Unfortunately, this involved windy autumn weather just around the corner. He noted how the warmest and driest summer for seven years had helped the garden be so productive in its first year. Below is a picture of Derek cutting the ribbon, with Keith looking on. Derek took time out from filming his current series of 'Weatherman Walking' for BBC Wales to open the Community Garden. You can find details on the BBC website, where you can also print out Weatherman Walking maps that enable you to follow in Derek's footsteps. He was right about the weather today (Sunday); though I am in the warm writing this, and he is walking and filmed up in the bleak Brecon Beacons!

Here’s a photo of Cllr. Keith Hatton, Derek Brockway, Elizabeth Millard and Jane Hutt AM.

During the speeches Keith and Elizabeth thanked several people whose energy and enthusiasm have contributed enormously to the garden’s success. We owe a big debt of gratitude to Stuart Hockley for, among other things, orchestrating the laying out of the plots and for erecting two large greenhouses and a shed in the garden. Merry Metcalf was thanked for organizing all the paperwork during the crucial stage when the plots were being allocated, and Lynne Squires was thanking for carrying on in this role.

Angela Peterken is the lead gardener of a Family Growing Group within the garden. This arose from her work as a Learning Support Assistant at Dinas Powys Infants School, following enquiries by parents keen to start growing vegetables with their children. Five families have been working alongside each other on the largest plot in the garden, including families with no previous experience of growing their own food. 24 different types of vegetables have been grown on their plot, including these pumpkins (a credible Third Prize in the Village Show), which are being lined up for Halloween.

An impressive array of food was on offer, all contributed by plot-holders, including a cake made by Angela. David Southall, who was thanked by Keith during the speeches for donating the large greenhouse to the garden, is seen here cutting the cake, with Mike Ingram and Elizabeth Millard looking on.

Below is a picture of Robin Harrison at the plant stall, selling seeds and seedlings. Robin is a fount of gardening knowledge and he teaches an Organic Gardening course at Murchfield Community Centre on Wednesday mornings (10am-12 noon) during term-time; part of Penarth Community Learning Centre’s adult education programme.

Below are some photos taken during July and August, since my last dispatch on the Community Garden, including one of the small wooden seats Giles made from felled timber and one of my own plot. Like many plot-holders, I had good crops of runner beans, potatoes and courgettes; along with rhubarb, peas and chard. As Elizabeth said, at the conclusion of the speeches, this is the fulfilment of a dream to turn an ugly derelict area into an attractive productive garden, which has really bought together the community in this part of Dinas Powys.


Previous posts on creating a Community Garden in Dinas Powys:

June 2013

April 2013

March 2013

Feb 2013

Jan 2013

Oct 2012

Aug 2012

Feb 2012

Jan 2012

Thursday, 12 September 2013

YAKITORI#1, Cardiff

Amidst all the chain restaurants in Mermaid Quay, down in Cardiff Bay, it is good to see a local independent starting up. Last month, in a unit underneath The Glee Club, Yakatori#1 started serving modern Japanese cuisine - with the focus on sushi, grills and noodles. This is Japanese food that reflects the owners’ travels around the world seeing how it has evolved in contact with other cultures, such as California.

We were fortunate enough this week to be invited along to Yakatori#1, as guests of owners Meng and Cheryl Yap. Meng founded Ethnic Cuisine in Swansea in 1994; the company grew to employ around 400 people and supplied ready-meals for J. Sainbury’s. He sold that business five years ago, and is now embarking on this restaurant venture.

The Malaysian-born couple have assembled a highly-skilled team of chefs, who can be seen in the open kitchen preparing beautiful-looking food. Meng explains that, just as he told his former workers to always imagine Sainsbury’s looking over their shoulders, he likes his chefs to be aware of the customers whose food they are preparing.

The range of sushi - maki rolls, hosomaki and nigri sushi – look great and, as Meng says, are designed to produce taste sensations. Therefore, the amount of rice is kept relatively small, to allow the other ingredients to shine. Bowls of avocados are prominently displayed in the kitchen, and thin slivers of avocado contribute a distinctive cool and creamy dimension to Yakitori#1’s maki rolls. Salmon, prawns, crab, tuna, and chicken are among the other favoured ingredients. Rainbow maki is a colourful flavour sensation, while avocado and mango maki provided an unexpectedly sweet and delicious taste experience. 

‘Yakitori’ means ‘grilled chicken on a skewer’. Yakatori, a term that can be also used to describe skewered and grilled food generally, is served in small informal restaurants and from food stalls in Japan.  The chicken yakitori here is therefore something of a signature dish, and consists of succulent flattened chicken breast pieces, coated with teriyaki sauce, and spring onion on small wooden skewers. Lightly battered king prawns and gyozu (a type of dumpling) with a sweet chilli sauce were other highlights.

The freshness of the ingredients is very important to Meng and Cheryl (and there’s certainly no MSG). The fish is sourced from Brixham-based Channel Fisheries, while vegetable ingredients are obtained locally. The nori (seaweed) is imported from Japan (where it is farmed, toasted and packaged as rolled sheets on a large scale) and there’s a choice of Japanese beers.

Yakatori#1 is family-friendly, not something you usually associate with Japanese restaurants in the UK. The children’s menu has ‘mini mains’ of ramen, wok-fried noodle and rice dishes, and a mild curry (and ice cream, of course). The menu also offers lunch and dinner specials, bento lunches and take-away options.

The name suggests that there could be at least a Yakatori#2 to come. On the evidence of the food we tasted, that would not be too surprising.

Yakatori#1, Unit 10 Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF10 5BZ (Tel: 2049 5050)

All food kindly provided free by Yakatori#1
Photos in this post courtesy of the restaurant.