Faced with the challenge of converting an overgrown site into accessible allotments, the not-for-profit Tess Community Interest Company (CIC) were delighted to get the assistance of 18 NCS teenagers last week.
With their Garden Project Tess CIC aims to provide those with learning disabilities and/or mental health issues with training opportunities to gain employment, as well as a gardening service for the community, and produce for the local foodbank.
After local businesses gave up their time earlier this year to help clear vegetation at the site, located off Harrowby Road, the clearance work was continued by the NCS volunteers. Led by their group leader Nina Jarvis, they set about removing two to three foot high weeds and nettles. “They were like Grantham’s answer to the Groundforce team, but instead of Alan we had Nina!” joked Tess CIC director Ingrid Lyon.
The group’s main remit was to create pathways suitable for wheelchair users - no mean feat given the allotment’s position on a steep slope up Somerby Hill.
“I find it really hard to put into words the difference these young people have made to our project, and saying thank you does not seem to be enough,” said Ingrid. “They have made me laugh with absolute joy and amazement at their achievements, and cry because of their total selflessness and generosity.
“Each day we tried to give them a treat for their efforts - doughnuts, ice cream etc. However on their last day we said we would take them to McDonald’s as an extra special treat. After a few minutes they came to me and said they didn’t want a McDonald’s, but instead asked me to use the money to buy a picnic bench for the disabled people that would be using the site. I was able to purchase two with the money.
“When they were supposed to be resting over lunch, they were raising awareness of the project through social media, asking for donations of anything garden related. We received compost, benches, slabs, plants, pots and more.
“Their amazing efforts have pushed the project forward by about a year, as we would not have reached this stage without them. We now have a site which is accessible for all, despite the slope, and plan in the near future to put down hard surfaces.”
Among the NCS cohort, was Elliot Smith, who said: “The team has come together as a whole, taken on an overgrown allotment and helped to make it something that can evolve.”
Ella Farmer added: “I had thought this would be hard work, but it went really well thanks to team work. This has been really rewarding and helping people is the way forward!”
Carla Haith agrees: “I have loved helping people - on the first day we achieved so much! I feel like we have helped to make a change and the project is going places. I didn’t realise there were schemes like this in Grantham.”
James Tomlinson admitted: “I haven’t enjoyed gardening previously, but working alongside friends made it enjoyable and I would like to do more charity or community work in the future.”
Tess CIC are keen for more volunteers to help them get to the next stage of the project, and for any donations of old slabs, old sheds, old tools, and old machinery.
To help, contact Ingrid on 07732 061330, at email@example.com and for more details visit www.tess-cic.org.uk