How Jennie's making Sunderland grow


Just Let Your Soul Grow is a community garden in Southwick that provides a space for people of all ages to come together to learn about gardening and living sustainably. 

Jennie Morris first set up the garden in June 2016 when the opportunity came up to take over the lease of the space on Thompson Road, Southwick. Building on her previous career as a social and emotional wellbeing lead in a primary school, she wanted to create an inclusive community space where people could come together and enjoy the benefits of being outdoors. 

Although Jennie’s background is in community and youth work, Just Let Your Soul Grow welcomes people of all ages. She said: “Initially my plan was to create a space for young people to come together, but the pandemic created a need for more community services, so we opened it up to be somewhere for everyone. 

“We have visitors who use the space for yoga, youth groups, after school clubs, baby groups, and volunteering, and local schools can come and take part in workshops to learn about growing vegetables. It’s a garden but it’s not just for gardening.” 

Having all ages using the garden is one of the factors that has contributed to its success. Jennie explained: “The youngest visitor we have had is three weeks old and the oldest is 87. 

“We do a lot of intergenerational work where young people can spend time with older people, and this helps to share skills and reduce social isolation. Everyone contributes something in their own way.” 

The garden operates as a community interest company, with any money made through fundraising invested back into it.  

Since taking over the garden, Jennie has also used it as a place to share her passion for living sustainably. She said: “When the garden space first became available, I thought it would tie in perfectly with my passion for sustainability and engaging the community to think about small ways they can make changes in their lives without overwhelming them. 

“Sometimes we repurpose on-site materials to build flowerbeds, sometimes it’s teaching people how to grow their own fruit and vegetables, and sometimes its showing people how to compost waste.” 

She continued: “Not everyone has access to a garden and or a chance to learn about growing their own vegetables, and I think people really benefit from having access to an outdoor space. We even have people come and just put a blanket down to enjoy sitting in the garden. Its about giving people access to that green space, and that can be so much more than gardening.”