Sometimes the benefits that parks and greenspaces bring to our local communities can be hidden as you take a visit to the play park or walk the dog. At Tollcross Park in Glasgow lots of improvements are taking place but it’s not just the active Friends of Tollcross Park group or the council that are making them happen. Some of them are down to a team of hard working volunteers from Sacro’s Garden Project and the improvements are not just to the park they are also about the volunteers - building on their strengths and gradually increasing their confidence and employability.


The Garden Project supports people with barriers to employment such as poor mental health or an offending background to participate in voluntary gardening. The project offers volunteers the opportunity to experience the therapeutic, social and environmental benefits of gardening. Funded by The Endrick Trust the project is being delivered in partnership with Glasgow City Council’s Neighbourhoods and Sustainability team (formerly Land Environment Services). Initially delivered in 2017 as a pilot in Govanhill Park, the positive response from residents to the improvements encouraged Sacro to extend the project and they are now based at Tollcross Park.

Growing people, places and plants

They have recently secured an area within the park which will be developed into a food growing area, providing the opportunity for participants to experience cultivation and growing produce. They are also working with Scotrail through the “Adopt a Station” scheme to smarten up nearby Carmyle Station. Alongside the environmental benefits to these places The Garden Project is helping offenders, and by extension their families, navigate away from the turbulence of their past.

The project offers structure to often chaotic lifestyles. Volunteering at The Garden Project allows participants to take part in positive physical and social activities while also helping develop skills which are transferable to the workplace such as taking direction, following H&S regulations and team work. The volunteers all have varying levels of skills and are encouraged to learn from one another, many saying that attending the project has had beneficial effects on their lifestyles, providing a positive alternative to alcohol and bringing structure to their day. They are all supported by staff to reduce stigma and improve their chances of securing employment.

Community connections

Working with a wide range of stakeholders has allowed the project to develop and adapt to suit the needs of volunteers and the local community. Sacro regularly carry out short surveys with visitors to the park and take comments into account when planning activities. Mary Thomson, Project Manager, Sacro said:

“Community support is important to any project and we are delighted that other local groups are providing us with practical support to establish our growing area. We have formed a working partnership with Friends of Tollcross Park to save some flower beds which had been earmarked to be turfed over and have been granted permission to use these beds by Glasgow City Council. We are grateful for the opportunity to be involved in activities which are beneficial to the wider community.”

Both Scotrail and Glasgow City Council have given support and made donations (like plants and seeds) that have helped the project develop.

Next steps

Volunteers who are developing the growing areas will have the opportunity to complete the “Grow and Learn” award and the Caley Horticultural Society will be working to help them achieve this. Of course gardening is not all about the outdoors particularly in the dark mid-winter so the team are also trying to raise funds to refurbish a bothy which will be used as a base for wet and wintry weather activities. The bothy will also be a friendly park-based hub where volunteers can come together, enjoy a cuppa, some company and take pride in all they have achieved.