St Sidwell's Community Centre


Our garden is the only green space opening directly onto Sidwell Street and the High Street and we have been working hard to transform this once neglected space into a green oasis in the heart of the city. Our aim is to create a garden that can be used and enjoyed by everyone.


If you enjoy gardening and might be interested in helping out, we’d be delighted to hear from you. Our volunteers look after all aspects of the garden maintenance. We have won two Outstanding Awards from Britain in Bloom SW, so we must be doing something right!

We offer volunteering sessions on Thursdays between 1 and 3pm. The sessions are led by our Garden Manager Julie, and will include a range of gardening tasks from seed sowing to planting, watering, mowing and more. Sessions numbers are limited and need to be booked in advance, so get in touch if you’d like to take part by emailing Julie on

If you are looking for a team day out, working outside and helping a local charity, contact us! We can offer groups of up to 10 people a range of gardening projects to be completed in St Sidwell’s grounds. Current projects include setting up a small orchard, planting a rose garden and create a bed with climbers at the bottom of our bell.

Facilitating team days does require extra staff time, and sometimes materials – so we ask for a contribution. Each project will have a slightly different cost based on material price. We can also include a nice lunch from our café (veggie and vegan options available). Groups will be led by a member of staff and we will offer refreshments throughout the day.

What is growing

Since 2014 we have planted hundreds of shrubs, perennials and annuals and literally thousands of bulbs – including over 5000 crocuses. Our aim is to have something of interest, and colour, all year round. We use natural and chemical-free techniques whenever possible, as we aim to create a balanced ecosystem that wildlife and visitors can enjoy and use.

The garden hosts centenary yew trees on each side of the entrance, as well as old holly trees. In 2020 we planted a mini orchard along the path including three varieties of apple trees (Ashmead’s Kernel, Tom Putt and Lord Derby), two plum trees (Mirabelle de Nancy and Green Gage) and two pear trees (Doyenne du Comice) and two quinces.

There are a lot of people who visit St Sid’s regularly, but still don’t know about our secret Vegetable and Herb garden. It’s not meant to be a secret but as it’s a sunken garden (down some steps on the Eastern side of the grounds) it’s not immediately visible! The veg garden is managed following organic guidelines. We grow a variety of herbs (including a lovely mint collection you are welcome to smell!), vegetables in a crop rotation and perennial fruit and veg like rhubarb and raspberries. You’ll also find our magnificent kiwi climbing on the pergola in between the beds – it produces small but delicious fruits every year.

Benches, a bell and more

At the start of 2016, a group of us went to Tavistock Forest in West Devon to select some lengths of storm Devon oak. They were transported to St Sidwell’s and, over the following 6 months, volunteers met twice a week (under the expert guidance of James and Nik from Carving Community CIC) to turn the lengths of oak into 4 benches. In total, over 35 people helped and we are very proud of the results.

In 2021 we rehomed the old church bell in the garden, where it can be seen by visitors. The bell you can see is the only surviving of eight bells that were hung in the tower in 1773. If you want to read more about the history of the grounds and its development, check out our heritage page .

volunteer carving a wooden bench

Our plans for 2023

In 2023 we will be focusing on water saving gardening, thanks to a grant from South West Water. This includes rainwater harvesting from the roofs around the garden, limiting evaporation with mulches and experimenting with Olla watering pots in our flower and veg beds. We will regularly host workshops around water saving in the garden. The next one will be on our Spring open day on March 18th, 11am – 2pm. Visitors will be able to make their own self-watering pot to take home.

We are in the process of building a new greenhouse on the side of the community centre, thanks to the Exeter Chiefs and their generous grant (go Chiefs!). The greenhouse has been designed and will be built by Co Create, with the help of our volunteers. It will have a wooden frame and will be accessible to wheelchairs. Once built, the greenhouse will be used to grow a range of ornamental and veg seedlings for the local community.

Our sunken veg garden has had a pond for years, but sadly it has never thrived due to its location and size. We have decided this year to empty the pond and rebuild it better, using an old bathtub as a frame. A smaller pond will be more manageable and can be placed in a better location, while providing a habitat and food for wildlife. The freed up space will be used to create a composting area for our Ridan food waste composter, compost bin and wormeries.