Stirlings is a 40-capacity care home located in Garston Lane, Wantage, providing care for adults diagnosed with dementia or with a physical disability. They rely heavily on voluntary sector contributions and strong local links to allow vulnerable adults to achieve a more dignified lifestyle.
The Home is fortunate enough to have vast gardens, but with no funding for a gardener, the grounds have remained neat and tidy but sadly lacking in colour, fragrance and wildlife.
Laura Beale, a Trustee of The Ray Collins Charitable Trust, is hairstylist for residents and visits Stirlings weekly. She was aware that staff and families of residents had been fundraising in order to improve the gardens. But it was slow going and they were unlikely to have sufficient funds to make much impact this side of the summer.
The Ray Collins Charitable Trust exists to support and enhance the lives of lonely, isolated and vulnerable members of our community, so Laura proposed the garden makeover as a perfect project for the Trust, which was unanimously supported by the Committee.
Local businesses chip in
Using local business contacts, the Trust managed to secure a fantastic deal with Acorn Timber for 40 treated sleepers.
Mattingley Ltd Grab Hire donated 10 tonnes of top soil.
Charlton Garden Centre gave generous discount on plants and shrubs.
And Phil’s Home Improvements designed and built the raised beds free of charge.
Sustainable Wantage also kindly donated some plants, bird boxes and bug houses.
Garden makeovers are hard work
Starting on Thursday 11th May, Ray and a number of volunteers began the thankless and back-breaking task of digging out and preparing the various areas of the garden, ready for planting. The ground had not been worked for many years, so it was very heavy work with lots of roots, rocks and clay to clear.
The sleepers arrived on Saturday and were moved into position one by one by Phil Tynan, Phil Cox and Steve Penney as the three raised beds took shape. By the end of the day, they were complete: 4 or 5 beds had been dug out and various planters stripped out ready to be re-filled.
The workers retired for a well-earned rest, before the fun began again on Sunday. Over the course of the weekend, 30 volunteers including Steve Trinder, Mayor of Wantage, and several children, put in hours of hard graft to transform Stirlings’ bare grounds into a flourishing plethora of flora and fauna to the delight of staff and residents.
The mountain of top soil was moved wheel barrow load by wheel barrow load to the various beds and compost dug in to provide the perfect fertile environment for the new foliage to thrive.
People coming together
Throughout the weekend, residents ventured out to observe the activity and chat to the volunteers, particularly the children, whilst Lisa Ball and the staff kept Trustees and volunteers plied with food and drinks to keep them going!
Under the expert guidance of Lyndsay Champ and Jenny Church, the raised beds were planted with low-maintenance purple and white perennials and colourful bedding plants, interspersed with plum-coloured shale to deter weed growth. Fruit and vegetable patches were created with a fabulous selection of strawberries, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, gooseberries, rhubarb, carrots and raspberries. A fragrant herb garden was designed for maximum sensory stimulation with mint, rosemary, lavender, thyme and parsley.
Stirlings already had a few tired benches in the garden. With a little TLC, these were soon rubbed down and painted to provide an instant splash of colour on which residents and their families can sit and enjoy the splendid surroundings.
Our hopes for the future
It is hoped that with further donations, Stirlings will be able to acquire some patio furniture to enable more people to benefit from the beautiful gardens.
Charlton School donated some bird boxes and bug houses, so it is hoped that this project will build further ties between Stirlings and the school, which will benefit the children, parents, teachers and residents as they interact over a shared fascination in nature.
The new garden has stimulated much interest amongst residents and their families, so it is hoped that others will take an active interest in maintaining the beds, perhaps setting up a gardening club or rota to keep them weed-free and tidy.
Trustees and volunteers were rightly proud of the finished effect, but it won’t stop here. They intend to return later in the year to plant bulbs and seeds in the wooded area ready for next Spring.