Learners at Wigan Training Centre have started a community based project at Mesnes Community Allotments. They have rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in with digging, planting and weeding. Joann Webster, the Training Centre Manager, contacted the employer, Dawn Thomas, who said she would love to have students join her on the allotments. Dawn has a son with anxiety and learning difficulties, who is currently enrolled on of the centre’s programme, and wanted to give other students the opportunity to develop their skills and help them to become work ready.

Wigan students were keen to get started at the allotments and tutor Dave Sunderland, being an avid gardener himself, was more than happy to take them. Dave thought of the idea when a number of students came forward and asked him about community projects including Bradley Shaw who has social anxiety and is mostly non-verbal. Bradley feels more confident and stated that “My communication skills have improved and I am starting to speak more to other students”. This is a massive improvement for Bradley and he is beginning to take steps to become work ready.

Students were given a budget of £20 to buy seeds and bulbs of their choice. With this they carried out a rejuvenation of the Spiral Herb Garden: What was once a pile of rubble is now a fresh garden of herbs which will be ready next year. The raised flower beds are also looking good now they have been tidied and new strawberries potted up for next season. Students have also learned about planning ahead and have started to take seeds from plants such as sweet peas and beans so they can be stored for next year.

Plans for the Future

All the hard work put into the allotments will be worth it in the end as any produce grown will be sold on the learner’s very own market stall. Any proceeds will go back to the Mesnes Allotments.

Giving back to the Wigan Community

Learners are keen to give something back to the community and specifically the elderly people in local care homes therefore Wigan Training Centre are working with a number of care homes and will be growing vegetables to take to them for their Christmas Dinner. To practice their entrepreneurial skills, learners will also be selling produce and any profit made will go to the care home residents.

The Skills Company Bed

Dawn Thomas has donated a raised flower bed which is placed at the entrance of the allotments and learners have revived this with pansies, snow drops, crocus and iris ready for winter and spring. In just a few short months this bed will have grown and developed just the students.

Something for Indoors

As the weather is getting colder and the ground is getting harder there are activities planned for indoors. The students will be supported in designing their very own unique garden where they will be working in groups to draw plans to help them develop their maths and English skills.

What do the learners think?

Students are really happy with this community project and those that have been taking part so far have given us some excellent feedback:

Aaron - “I really like Dawn. She is really helpful and has shown me how to use the equipment.”

Winona - “I didn’t think I’d like gardening but it’s been really fun and I have learnt how to plant plants and weed the beds. I have learned more maths too because I have done some measuring with Dave and he helped me work out how many bulbs I could get into one of the beds.”

Dylan - “Sometimes it’s cold but you warm up when you start digging and they have got a kitchen where we can go and make a brew. I am learning new skills and how to use all the gardening tools.”

Dawn Thomas has been very happy with our learners:

“They are lovely young people and I can honestly say they are a pleasure to work with. They have all taken part and nothing is too much trouble. They are making a positive difference to our allotments and we are already starting to see the improvements they have helped to make…We hope we can continue to work with Skills because they are doing a great job with the young people on their programme.”