Every Thursday at Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, volunteers from the local community and beyond gather to work on and maintain the Colour Gardens at the mill. Started in 2013, they were designed to be colour gardens, showing plants for visual flair or properties that can be used by the Museum in dyeing fabric. (Or both!)
If you turn right from the Museum entrance, you’ll arrive at our first site, dubbed the Cottage Garden. It is home to many varieties of plants, from various herbs and cacti to strawberries and dye plants like woad, as well as multiple benches for visitors. Plans for its development include a possible wildlife survey and plant of the week, both initiatives to help educate visitors on the plants and wildlife in the gardens. Plans for irrigation won’t go amiss either, as the garden is known to get quite hot and dry! Most of the dye plants have been moved to the Dye Garden with a few exceptions, leaving more space for colourful and vibrant plants in the future.
By turning left and following the path down the hill and around, you’ll find our second site, the Dye Garden. As its name suggests, it is the garden where most of the dye plants have been moved to. Dye plants aren’t the only thing here, as a garden lining the fence under the trees and bushes contains a variety of plants. This garden especially is a work in progress, but it has taken shape and changed a lot, even in the short time I’ve been there. There are plans for a train line garden in this area, a flood meadow to improve local habitats and even a ‘Dig for Victory’ allotment related to the air raid shelter located in the Dye Garden.
Gardening isn’t the only thing we do, as we seek to try lots of things and develop lots of different skills. The group has tried its hand at solar dyeing, weaving baskets and mosaic painting in the time I’ve been here, which has made my time at the Leeds Industrial Museum Colour Gardens varied and different.
It’s a great opportunity to get active, work at your own pace and feel good, as well as contribute to two beautiful gardens! Feel free to come to the Leeds Industrial Museum Colour Garden on Thursdays from 2pm to 4pm.
By Callum Rushworth, Work Experience Student at Leeds Industrial Museum