Groundwork visited Woolpack Yard Sheltered Housing Scheme in Ely, and met with the scheme manager who provided a tour of the site and information about the garden space. The scheme has an active gardening group made up of older residents, who are able to undertake light maintenance tasks in a number of the beds. There is also a landscape contractor who comes on a semi-regular basis to cut the grass and cut back any large shrubs/hedges. The scheme manager told Groundwork that she and the gardening group were keen for the courtyard garden to be part of the transformation project and was keen for some raised beds to be installed to make access for maintenance easier for those with mobility issues, and therefore encourage new members to the gardening group.
Groundwork’s Landscape Architect worked with the scheme manager and residents to carry out a short consultation and draw up an agreed design for the courtyard area. Changes included installation of raised beds, cutting and pruning back shrubs and overhanging plants along the courtyard wall, installing a new paved area to improve access and adding shingle to bare-grass areas which were then to be made more attractive with potted plants. Groundwork also liaised with the Regional Estates Services Manager to ensure that changes implemented would not affect the future maintenance schedule for the site.
Groundwork worked closely with the scheme manager to coordinate and advertise volunteering days. Advertising was successful and Groundwork recruited eight volunteers to help with the practical implementation of the project.
The volunteers worked collectively as a small team, led by two experienced Groundwork officers. They were provided with a full health & safety briefing before starting work, and training for all tools they used, manual handling and all activities undertaken as part of their volunteer role. Groundwork also provided PPE equipment such as gloves and safety boots. Over the course of the two implementation days, volunteers were trained to construct a raised bed, learning basic carpentry skills including measuring, cutting to size, fixing accurate and secure positioning in situ. The volunteers mentioned they would feel confident construct something similar (on a smaller scale) themselves. Volunteers were also provided with specific knowledge about some horticultural tasks, including shrub pruning, transplanting existing plants at the site, and planting up the new raised beds (including spacing, future plant growth and bed layout).
The residents of Woolpack Yard, although not physically able to take part in the implementation days, were on hand to provide moral support, encouragement and light refreshments. The residents were delighted to see the work take place and to know that it was being carried out by local people from their own community.
In return, the volunteers enjoyed working on a project that would benefit older residents in their town, and the camaraderie of giving their time alongside others for a charitable cause.
Lisa Robertson, Sanctuary Housing Scheme Manager said: “It’s been great fun, hard work, it’s been lovely to form relationships in the wider community and for people to volunteer their time...........it’s not a bad world is it?!”
Ewa Tomczyk, Project volunteer, and Waitrose Ely Partner said: “I think the whole experience was simply great. It's nice to do something for others, and to do it in the company of nice people was a real benefit.”