Friendship blooms over a Big Lunch

Heather Yang
Heather Yang
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Heather Yang is never happier than when digging around in the Newhaven Heritage Community Garden that she runs.

She aims for the space to be the glue that keeps the local community together by growing herbs and vegetables that people can pick and cook with so that their general health improves. She also sees the garden as an opportunity for residents to work together and deepen their own roots with neighbours and friends.

She said: “Many of the older people in the community do not have gardens, so with a bench in the garden, they will be given a tranquil space to reflect.”

Heather hopes the garden will give people the chance to get out of their homes and spend more time outside – weather permitting. Every change of season brings delight to the gardener but she is most looking forward to the blooms of spring that will bring colour and scent with them to a plot of land that had spent too long being dull and lifeless.

A desire to bring people together prompted Heather to host one of the Eden Project’s Big Lunch events, hoping to tackle loneliness and isolation. Eden Project Communities, a charity that aims to connect people to those living in their area, has been running the event since 2009 and has had a hand in keeping people engaged ever since.

Billed as the UK’s annual get together for neighbours to eat, drink and be merry, this year’s Big Lunch is sponsored by TV chef Ainsley Harriot, who is a big fan of communal eating and spending time with friends.

This year, Heather will be hosting another Eden event alongside the Newhaven Heritage Centre, with her second Big Lunch to bring the community together. June 3 will see young and old gather in the garden to enjoy some solidarity and, hopefully, sunshine. She said: “The value of it is that it builds a real community: you get to know your neighbours and you know you can look to them for help, which in today’s isolated culture is hugely vital. it really gives everyone the confidence to talk to each other.”

One local, aged 94, commented that he felt the whole area was dead but with the love and care he has seen, it has become better, and now it looks as if Newhaven is loved again.

As well as improving the environment for the older members of the community, the garden is on the way to a primary school, creating a chance for children to take part.

Heather hopes to work with Marks & Spencer to drum up £500 worth of food to enjoy on the day and will use fundraising platform Neighbourly to recruit some volunteers.

In honour of the pirate who was found buried in the neighbouring primary school’s playground when it was excavated in 2016, a treasure trail will be held for people attending.

For more information on The Big Lunch, or to host your own, go to www.thebiglunch.com