New facilities for disabled children and their families have been unveiled at a Northumberland visitor attraction.
A new polytunnel and vegetable plots have been created at the Duchess of Northumberland’s Alnwick Garden, for use by disabled youngsters.
The areas were officially opened at a ceremony yesterday attended by funders, supporters and the Duchess.
Funding was recently provided by Northumberland County Council to run the Forget-me-not Young Gardeners Group which provides activities and events at the garden for children with physical, mental and behavioural impairments and their families, as well as young people who care for other members of their families, from across Northumberland.
The vegetable plots and an exclusive polytunnel will allow the group to grow their own fruit, herbs and vegetables in the attraction’s Roots and Shoots garden.
The families visit once a month from March to October to learn gardening techniques, grow, maintain and harvest their own plots, and learn about the importance of eating fresh, healthy food. Children take part in fun growing competitions as well as growing bedding plants, herbs and hanging baskets to sell throughout the season to help support the programme.
Project staff and gardeners work with the families to support the individual needs of each child to enable the whole family to spend time together outdoors while learning new skills.
The new facilities were officially opened yesterday by Debbie Bakkali, head of children’s services at the county council, and Trevor and Lyn Shears, trustees of The Shears Foundation, who have been the principle supporters of the Roots and Shoots project for a number of years.
Also in attendance were the Duchess and Roy Leech, trustee of the William Leech Trust which also supports the project.
Carol Burn, from the Alnwick area, who attends the group with son Aaron, said: “Aaron enjoyed planting the potatoes, watering the plants and digging holes.
“It’s great to meet up with other young people and parents. It’s good for Aaron to try different activities.”
The garden has been delivering gardening workshops to school children and a number of community groups for seven years. Over the years, its roots and shoots garden has hosted thousands of children and 10 schools from across Northumberland get involved each year.
Other schools from deprived areas of Newcastle also take part.
In addition to the workshops, youngsters are taken on a visit to a local farm.