IT’S Valentine’s month, which means it’s the ideal time to ‘say it with flowers’. But how about going the whole, romantic hog and saying it with a whole garden? That’s the plea from the Fork to Fork team at Lancaster Leisure Park, who are desperately seeking donations to help its Forest Garden bloom once again.
Run and maintained by volunteers from the charity, with special needs via the ‘Fork to Fork’ project, the gorgeous garden is now under threat of closure. That is, of course, unless funds can be raised to keep it alive and very much thriving. So, ‘dig’ deep and help the 30+ team of adults who may soon be forced to down tools and leave their beloved garden to decay.
Beginning life with a three-year cash boost of £30,000 from charities and trustees, the garden and its beautiful plants and shrubs look set to wither away if the public don’t step in and do something good soon.
Giving the voluntary staff with learning difficulties valuable, hands-on experience in horticulture, as well as the opportunity to meet friends and create something worthwhile, the project is also responsible for 81 support staff attendees, who assist the volunteers when required.
Stephen Neave from Piccadilly Support Services – the parent company of the Fork to Fork Project – is a man at a loss of what to do next. He said: “We’ve been sourcing grant funders for a few months now, but none have come to fruition yet. It would be an absolute tragedy if the garden was left to go to rack and ruin. Such a lot of hard work has been ploughed in to it and it really is a lovely place to be now. I am concerned about the many volunteers who have given up their time so willingly for this garden. Without it, what will they do?”
Working for free for three years, the volunteers simply can’t go on if the money needed for tools and materials isn’t raised. We want to give these hard-working youngsters a place where they can learn and nurture, as well as connect with others and become an important part of the team. The support from the public will help the volunteers – alongside the flowers – blossom too.
The owner of the site and manager of GB Antiques Centre, Allan Blackburn supported the project from the beginning, himself having a daughter with autism. GB Antiques continues to be the primary supporter, waiving the rental value of the land and providing signage and marketing for the garden. Allan has agreed to pay the first £1,000 this month to ensure the garden can remain open until April – but after that, other donations will be needed.
Want to help? Get in touch with Stephen Neave and the Fork to Fork team today on 01524 847685 and help save the only forest garden in the North of England.
Photo: Aaron James is 23 years old. He joined the project 18 months ago after graduating from Beaumont College.