Being able to get their green fingers on a range of plants and garden accessories is helping skills at a learning disability day service to blossom.
The learners at the Hepscott Park horticultural skills unit, near Morpeth, will be able to improve the sales area in their small garden shop and enhance the garden trail with materials provided by a North East housing developer.
All Saints Living will soon begin redeveloping a former garden centre site adjacent to Newcastle Racecourse in Gosforth. But first the company offered everything left behind to the Northumberland County Council initiative which, for the past 30 years, has been helping people with learning difficulties to experience the world of work.
This included sales benches and staging, a variety of shrubs and plants, pots and wooden animal figures.
Pam Robson, Assistant Manager at the Northumberland County Council run venture, which takes learners from Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth, Cramlington, Longhorsley, Morpeth and Seaton Deleval, said: “We are very grateful for this fantastic support which comes at a perfect time with spring approaching.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for us as we wish to expand our plant sales to the public. We will propagate and sell the plants in the shop, displaying them in the large variety of pots, while wooden figures will enhance the woodland walk, which is extremely popular with the children who visit.”
The Hepscott site also includes three glasshouses, three polytunnels and several small gardens. Its aim is to develop its sales and employment opportunities within the community for those with learning challenges – supporting them in activities within the community.
One of the learners, Richard Cook, from Morpeth, said: “I like the big stones we were given. We are going to make a rockery garden with them and we can use the plant pots and the benches to sell more plants.”
Carl Martin, an estimator with All Saints Living, said: “Wherever we develop we look to see if we can do something for the community. When we saw how much horticultural material had been left behind at this site, we immediately thought of the Hepscott Park centre.
“We’re delighted to have been able to give them a helping hand ahead of the growing season and hope it helps them have a wonderful summer.”
All Saints Living plans an £11 million investment at the site, developing 14 four and five bedroomed, contemporary executive homes. Construction is expected to begin in early summer
The company has carried out a string of successful development projects in Scotland – where it was awarded Best Renovation title in the 2015 BUILD Real Estate and Property Awards – and Yorkshire before launching operations in the North East.
It is part of The High Street Group, which was established by successful entrepreneur Gary Forrest in 2004 and has grown to become a leading financial and property group. It employs over 50 people and activities include financial claims, property development and developer finance.