On Thursday 11th April, as part of the NetworX conference held in Brussels, the European Commissioner Phil Hogan announced the 5 winners of the inaugural Rural Inspiration Awards, co-ordinated by the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD).

Out of 175 entries, only two UK finalists were chosen – both from Scotland. Lanark’s own Castlebank Horticultural Centre was nominated in the ‘LEADER’ category, and GrowBiz Perthshire was nominated in the 'Rural Revitalisation' category.

Castlebank Horticultural Centre was awarded ‘runner up’ in the LEADER category. Sylvia Russell, Chairman of Lanark Community Development Trust travelled to Brussels for the conference and awards ceremony. Sylvia commented:

“We have been battling to find the finance to create a Horticultural Centre in Castlebank Park for the past 8 or 9 years. Very luckily we were awarded LEADER funding in 2013 to convert an old tractor shed into a toilet block, and at the same time we managed to get funding from the Climate Challenge Fund to create a Horticultural Centre with two polytunnels and raised beds.”

Sylvia continued:

“Castlebank Park has always been a beautiful public park, until fairly recently when it had been neglected and many areas left to become overgrown and inaccessible. One of the ways the Development Trust envisioned they could transform the park, would be to create the Horticultural Centre within the park as a base of a team of local volunteers. We have been very lucky to have such dedicated volunteers, coming out in all weathers and seasons. We grow all the plants here for ‘Lanark in Bloom’, which are displayed around Lanark in planters & baskets, as well as growing plants for the gardens within Castlebank Park. There are now lots of visitors to the park, whereas before there were only a few dog walkers. The transformation of the park and the development of the centre would not have been possible without the support of local funders like LEADER. We are over the moon to have received such an important award, recognising the project on an international scale.”

greenspace scotland and attendees at our Park Managers Forum saw the results of all this hard work at our Park Mangers study tour which took place in the summer of 2018. We can definitely recommend a visit. Congratulations to the team on getting this well deserved award.

Castlebank Horticultural Centre runs Community Gardening Sessions every Tuesday and Thursday which are open for anyone to attend. These sessions can involve working in the growing compound, maintaining the park’s formal gardens or working with ‘Lanark in Bloom’, who are based at the centre. The centre’s rooms are also available for hire for business or community lets. Monthly volunteer sessions and seasonal events are also held regularly, to help raise funds for the continued management of the centre and development of Castlebank Park’s gardens.

Get in touch with them for information about volunteering opportunities, events and education at Castlebank Horticultural Centre.