Northumberland horticultural skills units

Here you will find out about work experience in horticulture for adults with learning disabilities.

The horticultural skills unit offers skills and work experience in horticulture to adults with learning disabilities living within Northumberland

The service aims to promote independence and pride in achievement. Each individual is fully supported to use the service by our experienced staff and allocated a key worker. The needs of the person and support given are detailed in a comprehensive care plan and personal risk assessment. 

The service is provided by Northumberland County Council and managed by Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust. There are three locations, each providing a similar horticultural skills experience within Northumberland at Hepscott Park, Sleekburn and Minsteracres Retreat Centre.
 
Here you will find information about the horticultural skills unit at Hepscott Park.

Hepscott main garden area filled with different plants
The horticultural skills unit has been offering a service to people since it opened in January 1985. Since that time, many plants have been grown and sold to the public and many people with learning disabilities have benefited from the service.

In 2011, a major investment within the unit saw our older glass houses being replaced with new ones, as well as the refurbishment of our main building. Since then we have enjoyed a very pleasant, light, spacious and easily accessible building that can comfortably accommodate 20 to 25 people with level access to all areas.

In 2015, the horticultural skills unit celebrated its 30th anniversary with a series of events. In 2020 the HSU would have celebrated its 35th anniversary, but the Covid 19 pandemic caused the service to close in March 2020. Our service began to welcome people back in July 2020 and has been open since then. In May 2021 there are still some covid restrictions in place, but there are a lot more people using the service and we have just restarted plant sales to the public.

We offer people who have disabilities a safe and relaxing environment where they can make friends, enjoy themselves and be themselves without discrimination. We aim to maximise each individual’s potential and enhance their quality of life.

In 2014, the unit took over the Hepscott park garden café that opened in 2012. The café, along with our new glasshouses, home-grown plants and occasional activities for adults and children, has made the horticultural skills unit a popular place for members of the public to visit. The Cafe had to close in March 2020 due to Covid 19 and is still (May 2021) curently closed, but we are planning to reopen soon.
 
Hepscott park members selling a range of home grown plantsEach day begins with a morning meeting involving 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.

People choose their own work and there is likely to be a wide range of horticultural and related work available. The main focus of the unit is growing plants for sale to the public. Most sales take place onsite, although we also sell at other locations.


Vegetables are grown on an allotment scale and there are several landscaped areas that are planted and maintained, including a small amount of grass cutting. The available work will change depending on the time of year, the weather, the rate of plant sales and the needs/interests of those working that day.

We have some outside contracts involving planting and maintenance including planters at Pegswood.
 
  • Gardeners fit a new bed in a greenhouse16 day care places per day [during Covid restrictions capacity has been reduced]
  • main building with excellent facilities, including good disabled access
  • three large heated cedar glass houses
  • three polytunnels and cold frames
  • allotment area
  • landscaped areas, including:
    • the quiet garden
    • the summerhouse garden
    • the scented garden
    • wildlife pond
  • signposted garden walk for public access [not suring Covid restrictions]
  • woodland area 
  • sheds for storage and workshops
  • horticultural tools and machinery
  • people carrier and crew cab van for garden visits / contract grass cutting
  • large low loader trailer for carrying grass cutting machinery
  • large collection of plants for sale to the public – all grown from seed and cuttings
  • peaceful environment
  • adjacent to the Hepscott park garden café

Potting shed:

  • seed sowing
  • taking cuttings
  • pricking out seedlings
  • washing pots
  • ​writing labels

Greenhouses and polytunnels:

  • moving plants
  • watering plants
  • checking and maintaining plants

Shop and sales:

  • serving customers   [during Covid restrictions people who use the service are not involved with serving customers]
  • money handling / using cash register
  • re-stocking sales area
  • presentation

Growing vegetables:

  • soil preparation: digging, raking, preparing a seed bed
  • seed sowing outdoors, planting
  • hoeing, weeding
  • harvesting vegetables

Looking after gardens:

  • grass cutting using a mower and strimmer
  • planting flowers
  • weeding flower beds

Out and about:

  • visits to local gardens
  • outside contracts (eg. panting and maintaining planters in Pegswood)
  • visits to garden centres
  • annual holiday to visit gardens in other areas
  • sales at markets and other venues
  • annual cricket match
Hepscott park, Horticultural Skills Unit leafletWe hope that all the text below the line will be true again before too long. At the moment, because of Covid restrictions, our plant sales opening times are restricted to Monday to Wednesday, 1pm to 3pm, and members of the public can access a small sales area but are not able to walk around the whole site. At the moment we are not organising any workshops or events.
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The horticultural skills unit is unlike an average garden centre.

It is a small, but busy nursery growing a wide range of plants from seed and cuttings, selling them on to members of the public.

We specialise in unusual, hardy perennials.

At the unit, customers have a chance to talk to the people who have grown the plants and to find unusual plants that they wouldn’t find elsewhere.

Customers can also walk around our garden trail, or even call into the garden café for a cup of tea or bite to eat.

We occasionally offer horticultural workshops and horticultural skills unit activities. 
In the past the HSU has held a number of events to which members of the public are invited. These have included a summer fair, a Christmas fair, handing basket workshops, Christmas wreath workshops and others.

Due to Covid 19 the HSU has no public events planned in the near future. In May 2021 we restarted plant sales with very restricted opening times. We plan to extend these opening times through June and July 2021. When we are confident that it safe for people who use our service to have closer contact with members of the public we will begin to organise events and these will be published here. 

2020 was the 35th anniversary of the horticultural skills unit, but Covid prevented a celebration. We still intend to celebrate this anniversary when it is safe to do so.
Manager: Clive Moon
Assistant manager: Brian Wilkinson
Address: Hepscott Park, Morpeth, NE61 6NF (Location Map) Find us on Facebook: @hepscottparkhortskillsunit
  • Monday to Thursday (9am to 4.30pm)
  • Friday (9am to 4pm)

Plant sales opening times:

  • Normal: Monday to Saturday (10am to 4pm) 
  • Current (due to Covid restrictions): Monday and Wednesday only, 1pm to 3pm
Here you will find information about Tynedale Horticultural Service at Minsteracres..

Work experience in horticulture for adults with learning disabilities within the grounds of Minsteracres Retreat Centre.
Tynedale Horticultural Service (now operating at Minsteracres - see below) has been providing work experience in horticulture for people with learning disabilities since it opened at Ridley Hall in January 1994 until October 2017. Many plants have been grown and sold to the public ove rthe years. THS used to be based at the Lodge cottage, and worked within the grounds of Ridley Hall. In October 2017, following the sale of Ridley Hall, THS was moved to the extensive grounds of Minsteracres Retreat Centre, just off the A68.
Here at Minsteracres we have found another safe and relaxing environment where people with disabilities can come and make friends, enjoy themselves and be themselves without discrimination. We aim to maximise each individual’s potential and enhance their quality of life.
We celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2014 and this short film was made by FilmAble to mark the occasion:
 

THS is now at Minsteracres Retreat Centre

In October 2017, following the sale of Ridley Hall, THS was moved to the extensive grounds of Minsteracres Retreat Centre, just off the A68.
Here at Minsteracres we have found another safe and relaxing environment where people with disabilities can come and make friends, enjoy themselves and be themselves without discrimination. We aim to maximise each individual’s potential and enhance their quality of life.
Each day starts with a morning meeting, involving all service users and staff. This allows for people to find out what has been happening and to get involved in planning the work to be done that day. People choose the work they are going to be doing and there is likely to be a wide range of horticultural and related work available.

Because we have only been based at Minsteracres for a short time we are still finding horticultural and other work which we can be invovled in. We are growing plants for sale to the public, helping with vegetable growing in the walled garden, contributing to conservation work and woodland management on the wider estate, and helping with grass cutting and planting and maintaining flower beds around the main house. 

The work available changes according to the season and the weather. This winter we have been particularly busy with splitting and delivering logs and clearing snow.
We have only recently moved to Minsteracres (October 2017) and are still establishing the service there. This facilities page will be updated as our service develops.
  • 10 day care places per day
  • temporary walled garden buildings as a base, with office, kitchen & locker room, and meeting rooms, including a room with an open fire.
  • share polytunnel and walled garden glasshouse
  • Minsteracres gardens – lawns and flower beds around the main house
  • Minsteracres estate, including woodland, with woodland trail
  • sheds for storage and workshops
  • horticultural tools and machinery
  • crew cab van for garden visits
  • large low loader trailer for carrying grass cutting machinery
  • large collection of plants for sale to the public – all grown from seed and cuttings
  • peaceful environment
  • wildlife
  • beautiful scenery
  • Tynedale horticultural service is in a rural location and on top of a hill, with great views northwards towards the Simonside hills.

Plant production

  • seed sowing in trays
  • taking cuttings
  • pricking out seedlings
  • potting plants
  • washing pots
  • writing labels

Greenhouses and polytunnels

  • moving plants

  • watering plants
  • checking/maintaining plants
  • growing tomatoes, sweetcorn etc.

Plant sales

  • sales – serving customers
  • sales – using cash register/handling money
  • sales at other community venues (Haltwhistle plant fair, Allendale fair)
  • re-stocking sales area/good presentation

Growing vegetables

  • soil preparation: digging, raking, preparing a seed bed
  • seed sowing outdoors, planting
  • hoeing, weeding
  • harvesting vegetables

Looking after gardens

  • grass cutting – using mower/strimmer
  • planting flowers
  • weeding flower beds

Woodland work

  • cutting fallen timber
  • tree planting
  • trail building
  • log splitting
  • making kindling
  • chipping waste timber

Making leaf mould

  • piling dead leaves into compounds
  • building and maintaining compost heaps
  • sieving and riddling leaf mould

Out and about

  • visits to local gardens
  • visits to garden centres
  • annual holiday to visit gardens in other areas
  • sales at markets and other venues
  • annual cricket match
Tynedale horticultural service is not like an average garden centre. It is a small lodge which grows a range of plants from seed and cuttings, specialising in unusual hardy perennials, and sell these to members of the public.

Customers calling in for plants can also have a cup of coffee in our small woodland garden.

Here, customers have a chance to talk to the people who have grown the plants, to find unusual plants that you wouldn’t find elsewhere and to receive a personal service.

We are open on Thursdays between 10am and 3.30pm, but do close during the winter period.
Manager: Clive Moon Assistant manager: Karen Hemming Address: THS, Minsteracres Retreat Centre, Minsteracres, Consett DH8 9RT 
  • We are based in the Old Laundry. Enter Minsteracres grounds following the avenue of giant redwoods, follow the drive across the field, turn left towards the main house, then turn left again before the church and park in this courtyard. The Old Laundry is on your right.
  • Telehone: 01434 344933
  • Email: tynedalehorticulturalservice@northumberland.gov.uk
Service opening times:
  • Monday to Thursday (9am to 4.30pm)
  • Friday (9am to 4pm)
Here you will find information about the horticultural skills unit at Sleekburn.

Community fair day at horticultural skills unit at Sleekburn
In 1996, the unit was run by Earth Balance but 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.
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

Potting shed

  • seed sowing
  • taking cuttings
  • pricking out seedlings
  • potting plants
  • washing pots
  • writing labels

Greenhouses and polytunnels

  • moving plants
  • watering plants
  • checking and maintaining plants

Field work

  • rotavating (using tractor)
  • soil preparation
  • seed sowing outdoors
  • hoeing
  • weeding
  • harvesting vegetables
  • mowing and strimming

Vegetable sales

  • weighing and bagging
  • serving customers
  • deliveries to retailers
  • money handling / using cash register
  • stalls and other venues

Equine care

  • mucking out stables
  • grooming
  • 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 to  local 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
  • Monday to Thursday (9am to 4.30pm)
  • Friday (9am to 4pm)

Vegetable & plant sales opening times:

  • Monday to Friday (10am to 4pm)