Gardening has been shown to have myriad benefits ranging from the self-esteem and pride that comes from planting and nurturing plants to the innately de-stressing nature of nature itself. People have even been shown to sleep better after spending time outdoors whilst also enjoying a dose of heart health which comes with taking part in mild physical exercise to boot.
Working along the premise that having the chance to develop horticultural skills is therefore a boon that everyone should be able to access, a Leyland social enterprise based amongst Worden Park's 60 hectares of meadows, woodlands, and playing fields is helping people with learning difficulties try their hand at green-fingered exploits in a welcoming social setting.
An inclusive and interactive project run by the Brothers of Charity Services in Lancashire in partnership with South Ribble Borough Council, the Walled Garden project is open to the public all year round and has swiftly become a valued leisure and learning resource for local families, schools, and colleges. Also running events including pumpkin-carving, wreath-making, face painting for children, pickling and preserving workshops, gardening clubs, and arts and crafts, one can see why the initiative has proved so popular.
"The idea was to provide vulnerable adults with an opportunity to learn horticultural skills and enable them to engage with the wider community whilst doing this," says David Taylor, a Support Worker who has worked on the project for six years. "The initiative is important as the people being supported are able to showcase their talent, meet with their peers, and [be] active in the community.
"When some of the individuals being supported first arrive, they can be quite shy," David adds. "However, being in the garden has seen their confidence grow. They are very proud of the activities they are involved in whilst maintaining the garden [and] the feedback that is received from the parents of the individuals that attend is that their son or daughter looks forward to attending."
It's a huge win-win, according to David. "It reduces social isolation and they enjoy meeting up with their peers and friends at the garden," he says.
Having started in 2013, the Walled Garden currently supports 23 people and is centred around tailored individual programmes of care built around each participant's needs and aspirations. Making the most of the bucolic surroundings of Grade II-listed Worden Park, which is the largest in South Ribble and attracts around 300,000 visitors every year, the specific area tended to by the Walled Garden participants is thought to have horticultural roots dating back to 1777.
“Our longstanding partnership with Brothers of Charity Services and the Walled Garden at Worden Park continues to do wonders for the community," says Councillor Aniela Bylinski Gelder, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, Social Justice, and Wealth Building. "It’s a very unique and special place, giving people fantastic opportunities to learn about growing vegetables and cutting flowers and plants for general sale to the public."
Founded in Ghent, Belgium in 1807 by Canon Peter Joseph Triest, the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity is part of an international religious congregation with an overall administration in Rome and with foundations in more than thirty countries around the world.
Aiming to ensure all people have opportunities to lead their lives as independently as possible whilst being treated with equity, dignity, and respect, the charity specialises in services for adults with learning disabilities, with their history in Britain dating back to the late 19th century. In 1932, they even established their first service for people with learning disabilities at Lisieux Hall in Chorley.
“The project especially enables adults with support needs to be an integral part of their community; it also serves as a great resource for schools and families in the area," Cllr Aniela Bylinski Gelder adds. "The council is extremely proud of everything that the Walled Garden has accomplished and everything that it has become.
"Worden Park would not be the same without it.”