The Secret Garden

16 July 2018

Northallerton Town Centre Garden Wins National Award

The “Secret Garden” receives a Community Project Award for transforming unused land into community space.

A project which aims to provide a safe, supportive, inclusive environment in which local groups or individuals can help nurture and develop or simply relax and enjoy, has won a coveted national award in recognition of the work it has undertaken. The Secret Garden, adjacent to Zion United Reformed Church (URC) Northallerton, has been named as a Community Project Award winner and receives a £2,000 prize.

Liz and David Styan received the award on behalf of “Secret Garden” at the URC General Assembly held in Nottingham, Saturday 7 July.  The awards, sponsored by national church insurer Congregational Insurance, recognise the efforts of churches that engage with their local community, to establish and maintain social initiatives.

The idea for the garden came into being in 2016 when the church took out a lease on a plot of land and due to its success has expanded adding a further plot 9 months ago, which is currently being developed. The church covers the legal, insurance and utility suppliers’ costs; additional funding is provided by grants, other financial sources and donations in kind.  This has helped to provide the volunteers and the local community with a greater sense of ownership and involvement.

The aims behind the development of the secret garden were to provide a therapeutic space for the community; increase wildlife and biodiversity within the town; and to provide sustainably grown fresh fruit & vegetables to share with various local groups.    

Liz Styan an Elder at Zion URC and Coordinator for the Secret Garden said “We were absolutely delighted that Northallerton Secret Garden had been chosen for a national Community Award. The recognition and validation of all our hard work and passion for the project has been really encouraging.

We will use the award money to buy equipment, seeds and compost, to enhance wildlife habitats including constructing a pond, to repair and develop the garden shed facility to make it safer and more user friendly. We will also use it to develop the garden as a safe and welcoming space for quiet reflection for either individuals or groups to use”.

Margaret Slater, Marketing Manager of Congregational Insurance, said “we place a strong focus on supporting community initiatives that really make a difference and unite people.   The Secret Garden is wonderful it has given local people access to green areas and tranquil space in the town centre. It’s not only improved the environment it literally is a sustainable project and we wish them every success with their future developments”. 

Kevin Watson and Alan Yates, Moderators of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church and two of the judges that grant the awards said “we are confident that the cash prize will make a positive difference to the work undertaken by the Secret Garden. We are very grateful that these awards enable us to showcase projects demonstrating the URC’s' love for the community.”

To view short films of this year’s award winners, visit