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Nurturing Cutteslowe

The Cutteslowe Gardening Centre served as a much-loved community hub in an area with high levels of loneliness and child poverty. It closed suddenly in 2022. The site of the centre is based in the heart of Cutteslowe Park and has lots of potential to serve as a hub for community, nature and wellbeing activities. The City Council, who own the site, is keen to receive a community led proposal for running it.

A new group, made up of local people including former staff and beneficiaries of the project, has come together to develop a new social enterprise and community growing project, Cutteslowe Greenhouse. In 2022, this group asked the Nature Effect CIC for support in engaging the wider community; developing a volunteer network and supporting a new vision to come to life.

Goals of the project

  • 1) To build capacity for community engagement and outreach.
  • 2) To organise some seasonal events, to motivate and share skills with taster sessions which directly benefit people in the community – eg growing vegetables; connecting to nature and wildlife; and developing more of a community owned sense of place.
  • 3) To provide mentorship and incubatory support to the new organisation based on our experience, with the object of enabling the new community group to become constituted and operate entirely independent of the Nature Effect beyond the life of this project.


Project Delivery

  1. Building capacity for community engagement and outreach:

    A Community Engagement, Events and Comms Coordinator was recruited in July 2023. The appointed person was a local resident with experience of community work and nature-based projects, and connections to Oxford networks doing similar work. They focused on outreach, building communications and local capacity.

  2. Organising seasonal events to motivate and share skills to directly benefit people in the community: Between July 203 and February 2024, 23 events and sessions were hosted, building local skills and a community owned sense of place. These included sessions on the allotment, nature walks, community orchard sessions, lunch and art sessions (478 people of all ages attended).

  3. Providing mentorship and incubatory support to the new organisation: The Nature Effect provided mentorship and support to the steering group and the Community Engagement Coordinator. In this time, the following have been achieved:
    • Cutteslowe Greenhouse constituted as a community benefit society
    • It became a member of Good Food Oxford and Community Action Groups Oxfordshire
    • It has opened its membership offer and fundraising page

With thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund