One of the country’s top gardening experts has opened a new Horticultural Centre on the Chaffron Way campus of Milton Keynes College. The Centre will play a crucial role in helping students with learning difficulties and disabilities lead independent lives.
Adam Pasco launched and edited BBC Gardener’s World magazine for twenty-two years, as well as judging BBC Gardener of the Year. As such he is one of the most respected voices in horticulture. Speaking at the launch, he had some words of wisdom to pass on to the next generation present at the College:
“Horticulture can unlock a lot of different doors. It helps you learn new skills, it helps you to be proud of your achievements and it gives you confidence. Horticulture is creative, and teaches you to be caring, patient and nurturing. When we come back next year, this won’t be just a horticultural centre, it will be a centre of productivity. I’m looking forward to watching the same doors that opened for me open for the people who will really use the Centre”.
Dr Julie Mills, CEO and Principal of Milton Keynes College, praised the work of official partners Dobbies and Wyevale as well as John Lewis and Buckingham Garden Centre, and commented on the “amazing community spirit” that had produced “more than just a building”.
These sentiments were echoed by Mark Eustace, Project Director at Milton Keynes College, who said: “This facility is not just for the college, but for the wider community as well. It’s been built to last and will stand the test of time as a good investment for Milton Keynes.”
The Centre, built with support from local company Newport Pagnell Construction, is aimed at giving disabled students and those with learning difficulties the opportunity to learn independent living and enterprise skills by offering facilities unique to the College. Any produce grown by students can be sold at the Student Union-run student shop, as well as used in the refectory.
With raised beds, greenhouse and a traditional garden shed, the entire facility has been made with the needs of disabled students in mind and is fully accessible for wheelchair users. There is also a state-of-the-art building which houses a purpose-built teaching room, changing facilities and a specially designed space for autistic students. There is also potential for the Horticultural Centre to be expanded in the future.
Some of the students took the chance to show off their existing work including some beautiful floral displays grown in wicker baskets. One of them, Adam, said, “I’m most looking forward to growing herbs, vegetables and fruits in the greenhouse. It was as if one day it was a building site and the next day it was ready to use. One of our tutors Diane has been wanting to use the new Centre so much the builders had to stop her from coming in!”
Another enthusiastic gardener named Matthew added, “It’s all about getting your hands dirty, from planting the seeds to then be pulling them out of the soil ready to be made into produce we can sell is very exciting”