The Horticultural Skills Unit at Hepscott Park, Stannington is set to blossom after a launch ceremony marking the refurbishment and reopening of the site was held on Monday, 16 July.
The Northumberland Horticultural Skills Unit offers training and work experience in horticulture to adults with learning disabilities. The unit was first opened in 1985 and currently offers a service five days per week to 16 people per day
Over 100 people attended the launch, including service users, their carers, partners and staff. The unit was officially re-opened with an unveiling of a plaque by Councillor Ian Lindley, executive member for health and wellbeing, accompanied by two service users Raymond Easton and Sharon Storey.
Sharon Storey, 40 from Cramlington and Raymond Easton, 51 from Seaton Delaval have collectively worked on the site with staff at Northumberland County Council for nearly 40 years.
Raymond who was one of the first clients to work on the site back in 1985 and has been heavily involved in developing plans for the refurbishment said:
“I’m really pleased to be opening the unit. When I first came here it needed a good tidying up. I went to meetings with my mum and dad and we talked a lot about plans for the site. It’s a big improvement.”
The unit has undergone an extensive refurbishment as phase 1 of planned development work to the site to enhance the unit’s commercial capabilities and also to offer a service to people with a broader range of disabilities.
Refurbishment work includes upgrading the existing site to provide disabled access, new glasshouses and modern amenities. These improvements will enable the unit to offer a service to people with a broader range of disabilities as well as to extend the range of plants available on sale to the public.
Sharon Storey, 40 from Cramlington who comes to the unit twice a week added: “I’ve seen lots of changes over the years and I was involved in developing the new garden area next to the woods, putting in shrubs and climbers. I really enjoy coming here gardening and meeting new people”
Phase two of the development plans for the site which involves building a coffee shop has already started and is due to complete later this summer. This will provide an opportunity for the council’s five learning disability day units and horticultural centres to promote their products directly to Northumberland residents. It is expected that this will be launched later in the year.
Councillor Ian Lindley said “It’s great to see so many service users, carers and staff who have been involved in the development of this unit here today to celebrate its re-opening. It is certainly clear to see that people enjoy coming and working at the Hepscott unit. The unit offers so much to enhance the wellbeing of users as it provides them with an opportunity to follow their own interests as well as meeting new people. We are keen to give users more choice and control over services which will help them to participate in life within their community. We will look to build upon the success of services such as these being offered at Hepscott, which includes preparing people for employment of voluntary work.”
From the work I have seen here there is a lot of pride shown in the whole planting process from seed planting to care during growth. Our adult care centres are about securing the most meaningful experiences and life quality through a 'real world commerce with care' culture. In this way we protect the County's services to some of our most important and vulnerable people. I would also like to applaud the staff for their continued hard work and with the unit every success for the future”