Eaton Barn Community Garden
Our Community Garden is set on a four acre site in the beautiful North Herefordshire countryside, providing support and horticultural activities for people with learning disabilities, physical and sensory disabilities and mental health needs and a space to learn and grow for people in the local community, reaching out to older people, carers and veterans. It is run by local learning disability charity ECHO in partnership with Haygrove Community Gardens and provides a safe, peaceful space where around 200 people a month benefit from the tranquillity of the outdoor environment, learning new skills in horticulture, crafts and conservation, improving physical and mental health and well-being and making new friends.
At Eaton Barn we have a vegetable garden, fruit cage, small orchard, poly tunnels, chickens, a bee hive and woodland as well as a riverside area. People who attend can learn how to grow a variety of plants for sale, including bedding plants, cut flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables and trees, and during the winter months we make seasonal crafts from natural materials. In May 2018 we opened our farm shop where we sell our produce as well as craft items made by disabled artists, and in September 2018 we opened our outdoor classroom where we will run courses in rural crafts such as willow weaving. We have five community allotments, all currently occupied, and we are creating another three on the site. One of these is taken by our local special school, who have been using it as a work-based learning project for sixth form pupils supported by school staff. Our aim is to continue to collaborate with other local community groups and schools, local businesses and the public to develop Eaton Barn to become more inclusive and welcoming to everyone in our community, promoting positive mental health and improving wellbeing.
When we evaluated and reflected on the progress made after the first year, we decided a calmer area, to balance all the busyness of the rest of the site, was needed in order to provide the best possible support for all who visit. For inspiration we looked back at the ethos behind Eaton Barn to see how we could add even more value to this thriving project.
‘Sandra’s Garden’ – a sensory garden for all
Three years ago a member of staff at Eaton Barn, Sandra Jones, developed the vision of a community garden at Eaton Barn. She was a keen gardener and when she was given the opportunity to work at Eaton Barn, she grasped it, transforming what had been a rundown project into a haven for people with disabilities to learn horticulture skills and spend time outside in a peaceful natural environment. Sandra, with her Border collie, Summer, spent a year on the project and during that year the garden began to flourish again. Sadly Sandra passed away suddenly in March 2016 - and we would like to create a sensory garden in memory of her.
We would like to create a peaceful and contemplative space, a haven for people who need quiet, tranquillity, safety and support. We recognise that many of the people we support have a need for a quieter area, in particular those with mental health needs and those on the autistic spectrum. The garden would improve physical, mental and emotional health; it would encourage people to make friends by providing a social meeting space with outdoor cooking facilities such as a clay oven or barbecue. We have identified a peaceful and sheltered space behind our barn which is currently unused - due to its position it is secluded both from the access to the site and from the busy productive parts of the garden whilst being attached to the barn and its facilities. We imagine a Mediterranean themed sensory garden filled with herbs and flowers, attracting bees, butterflies and other wildlife, with a pond surrounded by seating areas tucked away on the edge of our coppice.