Green-fingered enthusiasts from Sanctuary Housing older people’s schemes across Torbay have been getting in tune with nature thanks to an accredited organic gardening course.
The ten residents attended an assessment day of workshops to gain an ‘Introduction to growing food organically’ qualification, under the watchful eye of environmental charity BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).
Leading the way for The Herald Express loveLIFE campaign, the residents are all part of the successful Riviera Growing Communities project, which allows them to grow their own fresh fruit and veg at allotments and spaces set up at eight housing schemes across the region.
The success of the project, funded and supported by BTCV, Sanctuary Housing and the Big Lottery Fund, has seen residents carving out healthier diets and lifestyles for themselves, while enjoying more time outdoors and meeting new people along the way.
Residents from four of the schemes involved in the project − Coleridge Court, Prince Charles Court, Hatfield Flats and Flemons Court − all decided to take the next step, by gaining the qualification.
A full-day course took the students through a day of practical and theoretical sessions, including dealing with tools and equipment, aspects of planting and sowing seeds, the benefits of organic growing and pest and disease management.
Judith Sumner, 68, is a resident of Prince Charles Court. She said: “We have thoroughly enjoyed learning about composting, seed planting, pest control, and which plants like each other and which don’t.
“I’ve been gardening for about a year and the Riviera Growing Communities project has surpassed any expectations I had. I’ve lived here for six years and didn’t know anyone, but this project has given me an interest and I’ve gotten to know people. It’s just wonderful.”
Richard Keeley, Sanctuary’s regional director, commented: “I’d like to congratulate the residents who took part in the course today. The project has been a huge hit with residents across all the schemes involved, and gaining this qualification is testament to their hard work and passion.
“It’s great to hear that they’ve enjoyed being outdoors, doing physical work, and seeing the fruits of their labour. I hope they inspire others in Torbay to join in the loveLIFE campaign by doing activities they enjoy.”
Suzy Kraike, senior horticulture trainer, BTCV, added: “It’s lovely to see people coming together; the social aspect of this project is really important. When you grow your own food you know where it has come from and you can trust it. There’s no air miles! Today we have an amazingly enthusiastic group; it’s brilliant.”
Riviera Growing Communities is a two-year project and reflects an increased interest in ‘green’ skills over the last decade, as people realise the importance of maintaining our green spaces.
The project has included weekly sessions at each of the sites, including sowing seeds, composting and harvesting, plus regular community events and participation in competitions.