Walled Garden Project
New home for Shropshire charity
A £10,000 award from the Big Lottery Breathing Places fund represents one of many backers wanting to support the Walled Garden Project's work.
The Walled Garden Project has been living what Project Development Manager Rozz Crockford describes as a "nomadic" life since it first started in 2004. But now, they could be settling down for good.
In September 2007 the Walled Garden Project moved to a new base on Coppice Green Lane outside Shifnal. A ten-year lease on the six-acre-plot offers the charity a permanent home and a chance to invest in its long-term future.
The Walled Garden Project describes itself as a 'horticulture and rural studies centre'. It is essentially an outdoors educator, offering a range of horticultural, rural and even wildlife experiences for different groups - from schools, to adults with learning and physical disabilities.
The benefits spread far beyond horticultural training. The project's adult clients learn horticultural techniques, but just as importantly, they find a focus and a chance to develop life skills. "They're learning to care for the environment and that has a knock-on effect of caring for others. We go out, we do visits, so they learn how to use money, they learn how to order things for themselves," said Rozz Crockford.
Crockford believes the project makes a real difference and this seems to be borne out by the fact that many of the adult clients have been coming along since it opened in 2004. Adults attend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from both Shropshire and nearby Staffordshire. Telford & Wrekin, Chase Day Services and Codsall Day Services all refer clients.
An increasing number of schools and other groups of young people also make use of the project's expertise: "I'm a great believer that you haven't got to sit at a desk... and listen to a tutor to learn", says Crockford.
Since it launched four years ago at Weston Park, the Walled Garden Project has also been based at both Albrighton and Norton Mere in Tong. Now the staff and clients have found a more suitable home, and one which also makes the charity a more attractive proposition to potential funders.
Rozz Crockford explained the problem for supporters like Shropshire Horticultural Society, who recently sponsored the charity £15,000 towards the first garden: "Obviously they need to know, if they were giving us that sort of money, how long was it going to last, how long was it going to be here to benefit our clients."
The Big Lottery Breathing Places fund has provided £10,000 towards activities in the adjoining woodland, opening it up to visiting groups and helping to support surveys and other nature/wildlife studies.
Other organisations have also financially backed the charity. The Roy Fletcher Charitable Trust, William A Cadbury Trust, Awards for All, The Lady Forester Charitable Trust and Advantage West Midlands are just a few of those keen to back the charity's work.
But with money in place, at the moment the biggest problem is the weather, which is delaying investment on the ground.
Outdoors at Coppice Green Lane
In January 2008 the ploughed field was little more than a blank (if muddy) canvas. But if plans are anything to go by, mud could soon be transformed into lawn, flower beds, a herb garden, wheelchair-accessible paths, fences, a small orchard and much more.
Weather permitting, the first steps to prepare the ground will happen February/March. In the meantime demountable buildings are now on-site and the project's six staff are working with students to plan the first garden, take cuttings, plant flowers and other similar activities that can be done inside.
However there's still a sense of excitement in the air and students came back from the Christmas break to find a second building on site. £10,000 of environmentally friendly composting toilets will also be introduced in February. Soon after, students will hopefully be able to start work on the first of two gardens.
The Walled Garden Project might be four years old, but it still feels as if this move represents the start of a very exciting future.
last updated: 31/01/2008 at 12:48