Case Studies

The Nettles Community Project

The Nettles

Target Group:

The Nettles is a creative green space owned by North Kesteven District and managed by an artsNK led Volunteer Group. The Nettles provide a unique and inspiring natural resource to the local community and visitors to Sleaford.

History of Project:

The Nettles were at the beginning exactly what the name says, a piece of land inhabited only by Nettles and managed by artsNK as early as 1998.
The first attempts to cultivate the area saw the planting of the now biggest living willow sculpture screen in the county, created by willow artist and landscaper Alison Walling, steel figurines by local sculptor Mike Lovitt and the installation of the much loved wooden frames.


The Nettles is a long-term project aiming to establish a regular volunteer group of local residents to maintain the land and continue to cultivate a creative space for play and display. artsNK recruited a group of volunteers who have been active in monthly events from January 2009. In 2012 the group was formally founded as a constituted community group, with the view to become increasingly independent and sustainable.


The principal objectives combined the transformation of the land to create an outside exhibition & workshop space providing room for sculpture, crafts and design projects, temporary and permanent installations, at the same time preserving a space of natural beauty and wildlife, used for recreation by all members of the community.
In addition, artsNK found that it was necessary to establish regular meetings through the creation of a volunteer group to ensure that residents and the wider local community perceived a regular presence at the space that would enhance wildlife, conservation and artistic expression, hence minimise vandalism and attract more local users.

The Nettles Volunteer Group:

The Nettles Volunteer group meets once a month on a Monday and is responsible for a range of conservational tasks such as, cutting the grass, maintaining the path and fence, litter picking, planting, pruning trees and bushes and in particularly the task of shaping the living willow sculpture screen.
Another major aspect is to engage local residents in craft and design projects, working along a variety of art form specialists offering opportunities to learn and develop a range of creative skills, developing a sense of ownership and pride by making a difference to their local community. The group has been established as a constituted community group in 2012.
The Nettles activities are regularly supported by the expertise of Hill Holt Wood ranger and local resident John Feneley, artist in residence Alison Walling and the project has been managed by artsNK’s Visual Arts Development Coordinator Marion Sander since 2009.


During this project artsNK have been working closely with a dedicated team of core volunteers, willow artist Alison Walling, ranger John Feneley from Hill Holt Wood and the Volunteer Centre North Kesteven. The project is further supported by Arts Council England, North Kesteven District Council and Leisure Connection.


  • Creation and maintenance of a beautiful and magical local outdoor resource –Increased usage of space for recreation by local community
  • Increased wildlife
  • Reduced vandalism
  • Installation of bench with/by designer David Brodie
  • Annual creative maintenance of living willow screen sculpture
  • Design/creation of willow fence piece
  • New fence
  • Planting a range of fruit trees: apples, pears, plums and cherries (2011)
  • Planting and seeding of wild flowers: oxide daisies, fox gloves, etc
  • Creation/installation of willow sculptures: Lincoln Imp and sheep
  • Managing of Hazel wood
  • Planting of fruit bushes: red & black currants, gooseberries, raspberries & sloe berries (2012)
  • Planting of trees: Walnut, Rowan, White Beam, Crab Apple (2012)
  • Stone carving: sheep and poetry slab


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