PhDiggers gardening group

PhDiggers is back up and running, if you want to get ivolved when it starts up again please email Josh -

The UEA Courage Project set up PhDiggers - a gardening group for postgraduates at the University of East Anglia. We were and still are eager to unite keen gardeners and amateurs alike to build and strengthen our postgraduate and research community through a mutual interest in nature.

PhDiggers launched in May 2019 with a gardening project run in collaboration with the UEA Estates team. Postgraduates worked together with Estates to transform an area on campus into a Silent Space - an outdoor place for solitary reflection.

Since then, we have secured access to five allotments on campus at the UEA, from which we hope postgrads can grow a variety of seasonal vegetables, fruits, and other plants as a group. Over the summer, a small group of postgraduates met to clear the overgrown allotments - as of the start of the 2019/20 academic year, there is still lots of work to do and lots for you to get involved with. 

Might you be interested in becoming a PhDigger? We meet up regularly at the allotments, so keep an eye on our events page, and if you have any questions, please contact postgraduate(su). This event has been fully risk-assessed, and all new attendees must receive a short safety briefing before taking part. The briefing can also be found here.


More Info About the UEA Allotments

The allotments lie to the south of the main campus, hidden among trees between the lake and Bluebell Road. They can be reached through a small gate, which links to a winding path through overgrowth, under low branches, and over a stile. Many of the allotments are tended to by UEA students or staff, and the Courage Project has managed to secure five of them for use by UEA postgraduates! Many of the allotments are overgrown due to disuse, but through regular meet-ups, a small group of postgraduates have worked hard over the summer to clear some of the weeds and get some vegetables and herbs in the ground.

We hope that this project will continue long after the Courage Project finishes, as it provides postgraduates a vital space to work outside, in nature, away from the confines of an office and the pressures of PhD research. This project is open to all, regardless of ability or gardening knowledge - we encourage everyone with an interest in tending to land and growing their own produce to come along to our regularly-scheduled PhDiggers allotment events!

Allotment FAQ

"What do I need to bring?" Just comfy clothes (suitable for getting muddy), good shoes (the tools are sharp!), and a positive attitude.

"Is this just for PhD students?" No. While the allotments and PhDiggers as a group have been set up by the Courage Project - a project specifically for tackling PGR mental health issues - we are now completley open to all postgrads who want to get invovled. 

"How do I keep in contact with other PhDiggers?" We have a Microsoft Teams group! Send a email to request to join sign up. We try to coordinate on there, as well as share pictures of how the crops are doing! You can download Microsoft Teams from here. 

"Is there a way to help out without actually getting messy?" Yes! We use leftover coffee grounds from Unio in the allotment compost, so every time you buy a coffee you're inadvertently helping out the PhDiggers! However, you can help out in a more active capacity by creating an EcoBrick - a bottle filled with unrecyclable plastics that can be used in construction. Not only will these EcoBricks help PhDiggers craft fences, raised plant beds, and seating, but also it is a good way for folks to support the project, and it helps reduce the amount of single-use  and unrecyclable plastics going to landfill. Perfect, right? Please note, we can only accept 2-litre bottles, the other sizes are hard to use. Thank you! 



Completed Project: Silent Space

The Project

Transforming the Dutch Garden into a Silent Space was a collaborative effort between the uea(su) Courage Project and the UEA Estates Team. The project benefits the UEA's Green Flag Award and Green Impact Program. In addition, the 2019 planting design by Ruth Cooper pays homage to the site's heritage, having been developed following historical research. The garden is also the first Silent Space on a university campus grounds.

The rejuvenation of the garden was completed over three days by PhDiggers and the UEA Estates Team, who worked together to remove weeds from the site's hedged beds, add fertiliser to the soil, and plant a variety of perennials.

The Garden

The origins of Earlham Hall, situated a few miles west of Norwich, can be traced back to the late sixteenth century. Records show that the Houghton family acquired the estate in 1616 and that the hall was extensively remodelled over the next 200 years by a succession of owners. In 1786, it became the home to generations of the Gurney’s, a family prominent in banking, politics, theology and natural science. John Gurney, co-founder of Gurney’s Bank, was the father of Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) who spent her childhood at Earlham Hall. A social reformer and philanthropist, Elizabeth dedicated her life to helping those in need. Her legacy continues to this day and underpins many of the attitudes of 21st century society, with her face now appearing on the UK £5 note. The Hall has been occupied by the University of East Anglia since its foundation in 1963 and was formally purchased in 2010. A major restoration project was completed in 2018 and it the Hall is now home to the School of Law.

The Silent Space

The 'Dutch Garden' to the south east of the Hall is a formal box parterre, surrounded by gravel paths and walls on three sides that date back to the 18th century. It is accepted that the garden was laid out in the 1880’s or 1890’s and its original planting was clearly influenced by the ideas of Gertrude Jekyll, the British horticulturalist and garden designer. The Silent Space, adjacent to the open spaces of Earlham Park, is an oasis of calm in which to sit and enjoy nature in an historic setting.




"Many thanks for today’s planting - it’s really such a great activity. Long time I did not dig the field to create a tiny and peaceful life! It’s the best thing I've attended since I started my research. Thank you for organising this project."

- A PhDiggers attendee