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Volunteers dig deep for student garden

Stapleford Garden

Students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities at Central College Nottingham’s Stapleford Centre are set to make the most of the summer after a group of local volunteers gave their garden a ‘Ground Force’ style makeover.  

Over the years the students’ needs had changed and the garden wasn’t completely wheelchair accessible, so they couldn’t make full use of it. Central staff were keen to give it a makeover, but it was a large project and they realised they would need some outside expertise and assistance.

Interserve, who run the facilities management at Boots HQ in Beeston, became aware of the issue and their staff decided to step in to help. 

Interserve consulted with staff and students to see how the garden could be designed to provide a welcoming environment and benefit all students at the Centre, such as including sensory features for students with higher support needs.

As a result, around 30 staff have worked together to created paths that are wheelchair friendly, dig out unwanted plants, put in a huge pond to house fish, paint all of the woodwork in the garden and given it a fresh new look.

Through their network of suppliers such as Roshal Consultants and J Tomlinson they managed to source some of the key items and paint was supplied by Dulux, with plants from B&Q.

Stapleford Garden 2

I did a lot of work on the project, measuring and planning the garden. I really like the fish in the pond.

Horizons* student, Gareth Potter

The garden looks ‘fantabulosis’! It looked messy before and now people can actually sit and relax in the garden.

Fellow student, Imogen Gordon

What a fantastic transformation! We now have a totally accessible and manageable garden for all our Horizons learners to enjoy and which will benefit their experiences and learning. I would like to say many thanks on behalf of all my colleagues and students to all the volunteers, Interserve and suppliers who have worked tirelessly through all weathers and given so much time and effort.

Mark Johnson, Central College Curriculum Manager

It was really great to be able to meet the learners before we started the project and work with them on the design for the gate painting as well as the design of the garden itself. They kept us fed and watered with some fantastic food and frequent drink runs during the days we were on site. When the rain was coming down thick and fast we even had James; one of the learners, offering a helping hand with the painting and playing us music from his phone to keep us in good spirits. While we were all aching after our efforts, the outcome, the team at the college and the pleasure we got from it made it all worth it ten times over. We hope to keep in touch with the college and would happily welcome the learners to our site for a day’s work experience or visit if they’d like to come.

Anita Failes, Communications Manager at Interserve

Some of the key changes include:

  • 3.5 meter raised pond with liner, pump and fountain
  • Painted all of the wood in the garden
  • Cleared and re-levelled the raised beds
  • Cleared the end of the garden to create more planting space and extend the garden
  • Pathways have been made more suitable for wheelchair access around the garden including edging
  • Levelling of the garden
  • Added additional seating
  • Built a brick BBQ
  • Cleared bricks from the lower entrance area of the garden
  • Bark has been put down to reduce the need for weeding
  • Fence/wood paint, metal paint and primer & brushes
  • Sensory items for the garden (perspex shapes to hang are still being created)

*About Horizons courses at Central:

Horizons courses are specifically designed to meet the needs of students with a learning difficulty and/or disability between the ages of 16 and 24.

There are a range of flexible learning programmes from Pre-entry Level through to Level 1.  Learners are supported to increase their confidence, self-esteem, self-awareness and independence.