For 25 years, our much-loved charity Earthworks has nurtured people and planet through Social and Therapeutic Horticulture.
We support people with learning disabilities – known as Earthworkers – to manage 3.5 acres of eco-gardens lovingly built by Earthworkers and volunteers on the edge of St Albans. Over many years our compost toilets have deteriorated, which for our Earthworkers is very difficult. We need new, accessible toilets which will keep Earthworks a happy place for all. The project includes a water-conservation system which would collect rainwater from our roofs for use in our cisterns, ensuring minimal environmental impact for years to come.
What we do
We support people with learning disabilities – known as Earthworkers – and our wonderful volunteers to manage beautiful eco-gardens in St Albans. We cultivate fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants with organic methods, and we build and conserve wildlife habitats.
By providing purposeful activity, we develop traditional countryside and life skills, build confidence, boost well-being and promote social inclusion.
With a stall at the monthly St Albans farmers’ market and our seasonal open days, Earthworks engages the wider community to champion inclusivity, learning and sustainable living.
Our inspirational pilot project, Earthworks on Wheels, empowers Earthworkers to travel into the community to use learnt horticulture skills to care for the gardens of vulnerable people.
In Hertfordshire, 95% of people with learning disabilities are not in any kind of employment. Opportunities for purposeful work or activity are few.
Earthworks was born in 1995 out of a need expressed by people with learning disabilities for social involvement and creative occupation. Over 25 years Earthworkers, supported by staff and volunteers, have transformed waste land into 3.5 acres of beautiful and flourishing eco-gardens.
Our Earthworkers might be self-referred or referred by local services. Social care funding currently covers most of the cost of our support staff, but other funding we must find elsewhere.
Our work is person-centred, meaning we provide the environment, support and choices to help people reach their aspirations and possibilities. Through time spent in our gardens, we see increased confidence, health and well-being, as well as new horticulture and life skills.
The carer of an Earthworker says: “The care here runs deeper than what is visible. It is more meaningful, more impactful than can be measured.”
The impact of our Earthworks on Wheels project has been extraordinary. Earthworkers get a huge boost of confidence and well-being from employing skills mastered at Earthworks to help others. This breaks down barriers and has the potential to transform communities.
After weeding the garden belonging to an older person who was not able to care for it themselves, an Earthworker said: “After doing all that, I feel quite proud and pleased. One of the best things you can get out of work is to help out the lives of others.”
Why we need your help now
Over many years our onsite compost toilets have deteriorated. They are now not working properly, particularly in increasingly hot summer weather. This has a huge impact on our Earthworkers.
Many of our Earthworkers have Autistic Spectrum Disorder or other sensory needs. Autistic Spectrum Disorder affects the way people experience the world. For many people this means senses can be over-sensitive to the point of sensory overload, which can cause stress, anxiety and even physical pain.
As a result, for some Earthworkers the experience of using our toilets is profoundly difficult.
We want Earthworks to continue to be a place of inclusion and compassion.
It is essential we rebuild our toilets.
We are also unable to invite visitors to our gardens for any length of time. Being able to welcome visitors for a longer time would increase attendance events and workshops, and allow our beautiful site to flourish with new people, community and income in the coming years.
Sustainability is at the heart of Earthworks. The budget for this project includes a water conservation feature which will collect rainwater from our roofs for use in our toilet cisterns. Conserving water is vitally important in water-stressed Hertfordshire, where rainfall is low but rate of water use per person is one of the highest in the UK. A rainwater collection, storage and pump system will ensure minimal environmental impact for years to come.
Any funds raised over our target amount will be spent supporting our Earthworkers to manage our eco-gardens: building confidence and skills, and protecting the natural world.
In our 25th anniversary year, please help us continue to be an accessible, compassionate and happy place for people of all abilities.