A horticultural charity for young people and adults with learning disabilities is back to full complement after it had to make changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three sites of Sunnyside Rural Trust – the Activity Centre in Berkhamsted, Hemel Food Garden in Hemel Hempstead and the Northchurch site – all work towards offering training to vulnerable people.
Speaking to HemelNews, publicity and communications officer, Dawn Watson mentioned how trainees at Hemel Food Garden love working outside as it’s beneficial for their physical and mental health.
Sunnyside stayed open during lockdown as well to give the opportunity to vulnerable people to carry on with their routine if they wanted to, changes were made to ensure safety for all.
Dawn said: “For adults with learning disabilities, it gets them out, they’re working in the outside which helps them with their physical and mental health. They are not stuck in a room at home depending on their circumstances, they’re coming here talking to people, meeting people, doing something active and they enjoy what they do.
“It was so important for us to stay open during the lockdown because we wanted people to have that opportunity to be able to still have their routine.
“To come out and work at the places that they used to, some trainees come during their holidays as they have other things to do, so we’re very flexible. We try to get the trainees out to a site that we think will suit them.”
Dawn also spoke about the successful week they had at the RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival this year in July.
People at Sunnyside started a project with garden designer Tom Stuart Smith and worked with him to grow his plants for the Hampton Court show.
Dawn added: “As part of the project, we had a collaboration with him to grow all his plants for his show, it was due to be done last year but then COVID-19 happened.
“He had been invited by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) to be their iconic horticultural hero for the year because he is such a well-known garden designer.
“We produced all the plants, and we were there for the week (July 5 – 11) because of all the work we did, like making various jams and chutneys, lots of new chilli products; we spent six months producing this.”
Many residents have shown immense support for the charity as they value the work they do.
Josh Bangerte is one of them, the Hemel resident is set to cycle from Cornwall to John O’Groats (LEJOG) in May 2022 to raise money for the charity.
Josh revealed he chose to undertake this challenge in memory of Ashley Savory, his cousin’s brother-in-law who sadly passed away and used to regularly attended Sunnyside.
He said: “The trip is 1,000 miles give or take. I will be cycling unaided and using a mountain bike. The difficulties I will face will include very steep inclines; weather can be unpredictable in the UK.
“The sheer miles are not something I’m underestimating at all. The time away from home. I accept that I’ll be gone for probably a month. I’m not trying to break records but just complete the journey.”
For more information, visit sunnysideruraltrust.org.uk