The Greenhouse Effect

On special measures from 1998-2001, Lancashire, the fourth biggest
shire county, is now a two-star authority which has restated its
commitment to social work values and promoting independence,
opportunity and protection. All of which is blossoming in
GardenAble – a horticultural project in which people, as well as
plants, flowers and vegetables grow.

Gardening can help people increase their self-esteem and
confidence, learn basic and social skills, and maintain or improve
their quality of life.

Importantly, GardenAble gets people with learning difficulties out
and away from traditional segregated, building-based day services
into the local community. As the parent of one service user who
used to always have colds, says: “He used to be always off, now
he’s so healthy and fit.”

The seeds were planted over two years ago following consultations
with service users, parents and carers at the Ecroyd Centre in
Colne, East Lancashire.

It all started bearing fruit in May 2003 with the project’s first
three allotments, complete with a poly tunnel, raised beds and a
greenhouse, where 12 service users began growing an assortment of
organic produce. Community partnerships are working towards the
project becoming a self-sustaining resource with charitable

Through Groundwork (an environmental regeneration charity), a pond
and wildlife area was built along with a workshop and a composting
toilet. A community hut now ensures that GardenAble members can use
the site all year round. It has meeting space, fully equipped
kitchen, toilets, store room and shop for allotment holders –
where, according to one of the service users who runs the shop,
customers get a free gift with every purchase – a carrier

“The project continues to grow and diversify while remaining a
valuable resource for all members of the local community,” says
deputy manager, Jackie Nelson. “GardenAble has raised the profile
of adults with learning difficulties both with their fellow
allotment gardeners and in the wider community.”

Allotment holders have been won around. One says: “I thought that
this (GardenAble) was going to be another white elephant, but I can
see that it is really working, they seem so enthusiastic and happy;
they are really fitting in.”

As for the future? GardenAble is involved in the Pendle floral
heritage project, alongside Pendle Environmental Network. “This
will create a tree and wild flower nursery so that the people in
Pendle and Lancashire can enhance their environment with indigenous
species,” says Nelson.

At the end of each day, one service user always declares: “We’ve
done well today, it’s looking good.” Looking good, indeed.

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