The garden centre for learning which is changing lives

Donna Williamson grabs the spade and begins digging in the new?Kirkdale Country Garden Centre.

It doesn?t matter that she?s got white linen trousers on and, with each movement, mud is splattering up her leg; because, for her, every ounce of effort is a reminder of the help she has been given by the charity which runs it in spadefuls.

?I found Rotunda when I needed it,? she says. ?I had family suffering with depression and mental health, I had been made redundant and my world was crashing down around me.

?Rotunda was my safe haven. It was the place where I found ?me? again.?

Rotunda is a community led centre for formal and informal learning for all ages, started in 1986.

Situated in Great Mersey Street, its aim is to provide support, education and alternative solutions to the problems local people face, giving them aspirations, opportunities and quality of life.

It does this via a myriad of courses and support programmes, with both a practical approach and a holistic one. There is a nursery and a cafe which make it the hub of the local community – and now, the latest project, the Kirkdale Country Garden.

Launched last year but begun three months ago, it is already a place of which people are proud.

For more important than the rows of lettuces and rhubarb, pear and apple trees, and a cacophony of colourful plants being nurtured, is the seed of hope which is being planted.

Maxine Ennis, a former student and now CEO of Rotunda, says: ?Rotunda is well known in the area and has had a massive impact on the community.

?When I took over, part of my role was to look at how we could diversify the programmes we could deliver.

?We didn?t want to just be an adult learning centre, but a tailored bespoke learning centre, engaging local people in vocational and holistic programmes that work with the whole person.

?When we started here we were looking at dereliction. Now we are looking at a beautiful Georgian terrace – and a garden to die for.

?The garden is part of the growth plan, using outdoor spaces for the health and well-being of the community.?

The garden is supported and maintained by the fragrance company, Jo Malone London, which last year split the proceeds from the sale of its Silk Blossom ?charity? candle between it and its Old English Garden in Battersea, as well as volunteering workers to help out there.

It is part of a global initiative by the company to support marginalised communities in key cities to build beautiful scented gardens, collaborating with charities to improve the lives of those living in deprived and vulnerable situations, normally due to mental health, addiction, poverty or disability.

Bianca Iaciofano, a spokesperson for Jo Malone, says: ?Gardens are at the heart of our charity work. They create a sense of inspiration but also create a short-term therapeutic benefit.

?If every person had access to green space we would save ?2.1bn in health care costs.?

The garden was designed by BCA Landscapes in Liverpool, headed up by partner Andy Thomson, who explains that the idea was to create a series of ?rooms?.

There is a kitchen garden which is already growing lettuce, peas, broadbeans and a whole range of herbs which are used in the cafe.

?There is a harvest table garden with jasmine and roses and which will have a seating area, a secret woodland garden which the kids from the nursery wanted – there will be willow tunnels, and it will be wild so people can explore and discover things themselves – and a circular lawn where the theatre groups will perform and where there will be yoga and tai chi sessions.

Donna undertook a series of courses at Rotunda to get back into the workplace before finding employment there as a volunteer co-ordinator.

But she is still happy to roll her sleeves up and put herself forward, especially for work in the garden: ?When things are so stressful for people, you need an area of beauty and tranquillity.?

Maxine smiles: ?There is a perception of Kirkdale and people said it wouldn?t last five minutes but we haven?t had a single plant destroyed or an issue raised, because it is community-owned and, for many, a labour of love.

?We?ve had enough of the deprived tag – there is nothing deprived about this. Just look at what is going on here – it?s amazing.?

Article source

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.