Community Gardens

Teenagers – doing it for themselves

June 22, 2012
Bridge Boys Youth Bench

Bridge Boys Youth Bench

We all know of areas in our towns or villages where groups of teens like to mooch around don’t we? If they’re not into sports or youth organisations like the Scouts or similar what is there for them to do?

Preparing the community garden flower bed

Working hard!

When I grew up there was a village youth club where we all hung out – we played pool, darts, bought snacks from the hatch or just sat and listened to music with our mates. But unless there are willing volunteers available to run these informal places where teens are allowed to be themselves, what else is there?Sowing seeds

This age group can seem intimidating or troublesome to some – they get blamed for all the vandalism and theft, they’re labelled and frowned upon.

Wildlife Friendly Flowers

Wildlife Friendly Flowers

However, in Goresbridge, Co Kilkenny teens are trying their best to change this perception by doing something for themselves, all under the gentle guidance of Martina from Ossary Youth.

In this pretty rural village the lads known as The Bridge Boys have rejuvenated an area they hang out in. With the EcoUnesco award as a goal, and a summer BBQ as a celebration of their achievements, the boys have been busy.

Snakes & Ladders

Snakes & Ladders (mobile phones act as counters)

I came across Jay, Evan, Aidan and David in February when I was asked to help them grow some vegetables for their party. They decided what they wanted to eat, they sowed the seeds and watched them develop. They were very energetic, keen to get stuck in and full of questions, slightly different from my usual gardening groups who generally prefer a slower pace and lots of tea! If you’re wondering what teenage lads chose to sow, what else but cosmic purple carrots! They also picked lettuce, basil, courgettes, peas, tomatoes, beetroot and lettuce from the seed tin.

Outside in the community garden they cleaned up an old bed, sowed wildlife friendly plants – sunflowers, cosmos, night scented stocks, calendula and aubrietta. The rest of the plants were put out by the river, the location of their summer shindig. We even snuck in a couple of courgette & tomato plants… wonder if anyone will notice.

What really blew me away with this project wasn’t the vegetable and flower planting that I’d been involved with, though I was impressed by their enthusiasm and hard work, it was seeing the boys handiwork building a “youth bench”. They’ve been cleaning and tidying all the benches by the river but creating the games bench apparently took four days of measuring, cutting, sanding, drawing and painting. When they’d finished they then went on to make three bird tables.

The outdoor games table has spinners that act as the dice and squares in the snakes and ladders large enough for their mobile phones which become the counters – isn’t it great?! This is ‘their’ bench. Now when the local youths hang out down by the river with their friends they have something to do. They also have a sense of pride and achievement and will be protective of their area.

Bridge Boys

Apart from feeling a sense of delight at seeing this project come to fruition, two other things made me smile ….the first was the expression on one of the mothers faces when she saw what her son had achieved (jaw dropping was a understatment). The second was the story I heard of an old lady who was spotted stealing all the flowers from one of the beds and squirreling them into her bag to take home. It wasn’t the teenagers messing up the village, but someone who really should have known better….

What do you think? Are you as impressed by the lads bench as I am? I can see villages everywhere wanting one of these. If you’re involved with any community groups perhaps you could make the suggestion and see where it leads…

Bridge Boys BBQ Veg

Lettuce, beetroot, basil, courgettes, carrots & tomatoes


  • Reply Foxglove Lane June 23, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Fantastic! I wish we had them and their creativity around here! Plus they look really happy, lovely post Dee:~)

    • Reply greensideupveg June 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      I’m not sure who was guiding them with this project Catherine but what a great idea! (and thank you)

  • Reply La Vie en Rose June 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    This is my favourite post of yours to date Dee!! I LOVE it! Fair play to you and the lads for accomplishing so much. It just goes to show how constructive lads can be when they are interested and are in on the decision making process. Fantastic – Congratulations all round! They should go round the country a la Diarmuid Gavin to other teenage groups – it would be some project!


    • Reply greensideupveg June 24, 2012 at 11:08 pm

      Aw thanks Sharon, was probably the most tired I’ve ever been writing one as I’d been helping three community projects on Friday but was so excited by it and could see it’s potential it just had to be shared 🙂

    • Reply Ena Ronayne June 28, 2012 at 8:26 am

      Excellent point, you’re right they should be encouraged to travel around and promote this great story to all those other youth groups that appear to be struggling with negativity and low morale.

      • Reply greensideupveg June 28, 2012 at 9:02 am

        I’ll pass those comments on as it’s a great idea 🙂

  • Reply Roisin Markham June 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Brilliant! well done Dee, great post and how fantastic to be involved in such a great project. lets have plenty more of that. Love your sense of pride and sharing in this. Bizarre that some elderly woman pinched the plants – interesting balance to stereotyping in this post & community.
    Off to share…

    • Reply greensideupveg June 27, 2012 at 12:43 am

      Thanks Roisin. Mine was only a minor part compared to some but really enjoyed being a part of it and found the whole project very inspiring 🙂

  • Reply Ena Ronayne June 28, 2012 at 8:24 am

    A good news story for a change! Well done Dee for publicicing it. All too often teenagers all get lumped into the negative box like La Vie en Rose said above they should really travel around to different youth groups to promote this positivity. Excellent post. Nice find. x.x

    • Reply greensideupveg June 28, 2012 at 9:05 am

      Thanks for your comments Ena and they do indeed. Delighted to see such such positivity happening in Goresbridge and yes, what a good idea for other neighbourhoods.

  • Reply Eco Evolution June 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Loving this blog Dee. You should all be so proud of this wonderful achievement. It’s heart warming to see the young guys so interested in a project like this. Fantastic looking games table. I am involved in a Tidy Towns group and the local teenagers love getting involved. Like you our plants went missing and once again it wasn’t the teenagers….Wouldn’t it be great to see this type of project in every town!

  • Reply Interview Series: Science Wows talks to Dee Sewell of Greenside Up | Dr. How's Science Wows August 30, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    […] I enjoy them both but most of my work now is with groups. I primarily work with adults but have worked with children from 4 to 12 at an after schools club and teenage boys from a village youth project. The after schools project took place during the winter months so was mostly indoors but we looked at everything from nutrition to bulb planting and wildlife. I enjoyed my work with the teens immensely as to watch them show a marginal amount of interest in seed sowing then to see their expressions when the plants actually grew was so rewarding! (Read Dee’s blog about this project here). […]

  • Reply Pests, plugs and posts - all in a morning's work in the community garden September 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    […] was weeded and raked over ready to take a sowing of some annual flower seeds that we’ll be adding to the bed the Bridge Boys prepared last year. Also Peter was lured back by the banter, tea and biscuits to build something that I’ll unveil […]

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