There and back again… a horticultural adventure with Stakeford Nurseries

In late September, we took a group of 20 staff and service users from Stakeford Nurseries on the trip of a lifetime to the Eden Project in Cornwall as part of our ‘Next Steps Project’, a programme which gives service users who have participated in our 3-year training programme at the Nurseries with experiential and volunteering opportunities in different horticultural environments.

As well as an opportunity to learn more about horticulture and biodiversity at a globally renowned centre of excellence, the trip also provided us with a unique fundraising opportunity. Horticultural Services Manager, Dan Hedley, had the following to say about the visit:

At the end of September, we made the long journey to the Eden Project in Cornwall.  The Eden Project is home to the world’s largest indoor rain forest so for a long time, we had felt that it would be the perfect place for staff and service users to expand on what they have learned during the course of their three-year training course at Stakeford Nurseries.

We entered the Eden Project first thing in the morning and started to explore the outstanding gardens and Biomes after an introductory talk from one of the welcome guides about how the Project came to be.  The Biomes took us through flora and fauna like we had never seen first-hand before. 

In the rainforest Biome, we were able to see crops growing in the Malaysian Home Garden, Spice Area and the African chop farm.  The latter showcased traditional West African vegetables of both cultural and nutritional importance.  Following the walkways to the very top of the Biome, we learned about the cycle of water and its importance to such an environment. Exhibits about the important role that horticulture plays in our everyday lives, such as during the production of clothing were also of particular interest, as well as information about the journeys that consumables such as cocoa beans, coffee and bananas make in order to get to our supermarket shelves. 

In the Mediterranean Biome, we saw citrus fruit trees as well as rows of grapevines alongside a fantastic collection of cactus plants.  This Biome also houses some wonderful sculptures made from a variety of materials – something we would like to mimic around our own site.

The outdoor gardens were much more familiar to us, with vegetable plots and borders full of Dahlias, Sunflowers and Lavender to name but a few.

For some of our service users this will have been a once in a lifetime trip, a real milestone moment. So often our clients’ life stages are defined by their illness or condition, as positive life experiences such as holidays and day trips are not always possible. The Eden Project trip changed that. Those service users who took the opportunity were able to socialise with likeminded people in an amazing place, and see and experience things that they may never get to see again.

While we were in Cornwall, one of our long-serving members of staff, Alan Davison, took part in a unique zip wire challenge in order to raise funds for the Stakeford Nurseries.

The SkyWire Challenge, which soars high above the Eden Project’s iconic Biomes is the longest and fastest zip wire in England, reaching speeds of nearly 60mph. While Alan travelled up the tower to the starting point, we all gathered around a TV screen to watch the event in real time. Everyone was very supportive of his bravery. We were able to watch the start of his journey on the big screen before heading outside to applaud Alan as he landed at the bottom. The atmosphere and excitement was incredible.

At 72 years old, Alan wanted to raise funds to help Blyth Star Enterprises to continue to be able to offer educational excursions like the visit to the Eden Project in the future. His hard work and daredevil attitude helped to raise over £500, an amazing amount that is very much appreciated. 

To find out more about the Stakeford Nurseries, click here.