In 1996, the unit was run by Earth Balance. However, since September 1999, it has been run by Northumberland County Council.
Since then, many vegetables and plants have been grown and sold to the public and many people with learning disabilities and mental health needs have benefited from the service provided.
The quantity of vegetables grown and sold has increased over the last few years and as a result now has a brown tourist sign on the main road, directing customers to Sleekburn HTU kitchen gardens.
The unit is a rural oasis hidden away from the main road and a lot of our first time visitors are surprised to find a slice of the countryside amidst a mainly rural area.
The HTU has a pleasant, peaceful working environment and the sense of secluded space is part of the unit’s identity. However, the sense of community within the unit is just as important in making the unit a great place to work or visit. It offers people who have disabilities a safe, relaxing environment within which to work, make friends, enjoy themselves and be themselves without discrimination. We aim to maximise each individual’s potential and to enhance their quality of life.
What we offer
Each day begins with a morning meeting featuring all service users and staff. This gives a chance for people to find out what has been happening within the unit and to get involved in planning the work to be done that day.
The main focus of the unit is growing vegetables and plants for sale to the public. Sales take place on site and we are working on trying to increase the number of customers who visit us, but we also take our produce in our van at other locations, as well as sell to retailers.
The available work will change depending on the time of year, the weather, the rate of sale, yields and the needs/interests of those working that day.
- 18 day care places per day
- purpose built, turf-roofed training building with excellent facilities
- two polycarbonate greenhouses
- three polytunnels
- large potting shed
- several acres of growing space for vegetables and soft fruit
- stable building and paddocks with two horses
- small ‘secret garden’ areas
- horticultural tools and machinery
- people carrier & crew cab van for garden visits/contract grass cutting
- large low loader trailer for carrying grass cutting machinery
- vegetables and plants for sale to the public – all grown without chemicals
- peaceful environment
- the unit is at the southern end of the Earth Balance site
Horticultural work and activities
- seed sowing
- taking cuttings
- pricking out seedlings
- potting plants
- washing pots
- writing labels
Greenhouses and polytunnels
- moving plants
- watering plants
- checking and maintaining plants
- rotavating (using tractor)
- soil preparation
- seed sowing outdoors
- < >< >harvesting vegetables
- mowing and strimming
- weighing and bagging
- serving customers
- deliveries to retailers
- money handling / using cash register
- stalls and other venues
- mucking out stables
- exercising and moving between paddocks
- maintaining paddocks
- feeding and watering
Willow and crafts
- cutting willow
- weaving willow
- making Christmas wreaths
Looking after gardens
- Grass cutting using a mower and strimmer
- planting flowers
- weeding flower beds
Out and about
- visits tolocal gardens
- visits to garden centres
- annual holiday to visit garden centres in other areas
- sales at markets and other venues
- annual cricket match
- contract grass cutting
Sleekburn horticultural unit is a small, but busy market garden. We specialise in fresh, local, healthy vegetables, herbs and soft fruits grown in fields and polytunnels. We sell directly to the public on site and off site at fairs and other events. We also sell to retailers and you can find out vegetables at Moorhouse Farm, Stannington and Morpeth. The vegetables we have available varies from week to week and customers can see where they have been grown and may have a chance to harvest your own vegetables from the field.
Manager: Clive Moon
Assistant manager: Venita Kanwar
Address: Sleekburn Horticultural Training Unit, West Sleekburn Farm, Bomarsund, Bedlington NE22 7AD
Service opening times:
- Monday – Thursday (9am - 4.30pm)
- Friday (9am - 4pm)
Vegetable & plant sales opening times:
- Monday – Friday (10am - 4pm)