Volunteers from The Chilterns recently attended a celebratory event for The Garden Gate project, which was awarded ‘Community Garden of the Year’ in the Kent Wildlife Trust’s annual Wild About Gardens awards. Garden Gate also received a special award for ‘Best Community Wildlife Project’.
The Garden Gate project is an independent charity, one of the main aims of which is “to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of people experiencing social exclusion through mental ill health and / or learning disability, living in Thanet”.
The project is well supported by volunteers from The Chilterns, who help out at the garden a couple of times a week and have done so for the past couple of years.
Individuals at The Chilterns grow their own fruit, vegetables and flowers, which they can take away with them. Recycling is also a key theme at the garden – one notable project recently involved the use of wood from local beach huts damaged earlier this year in the storms. The wood was used to create large containers for planting.
The Garden Gate also hosts regular community art projects, open days and summer music festivals.
Paul Boyce, Garden Manager, said: “The Garden Gate provides an invaluable social network for people with mental ill health or learning disabilities – the kind of diverse peer group that could never be brought together in a setting such as care home or day centre. We have volunteers of all ages, with different skills and expertise. Gardening represents the common denominator for everyone.
“It also provides a valuable work experience opportunity. People generally want to work, yet through illness or disability they are unable to hold down a job. The Garden Gate affords everyone the opportunity to put their focus and energies to productive use.”