Gardening for juniors, seniors and volunteers

George Swordy co-ordinates the Roots & Shoots community projects at The Alnwick Garden. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
George Swordy co-ordinates the Roots & Shoots community projects at The Alnwick Garden. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Therapeutic and social aspects of gardening shouldn’t be underestimated, as popular verse reminds us.

There’s something very calming about plants, be they ornamental or edible. Interacting with them, either individually or in the company of others, can be a very satisfying experience.

But what if you have the urge to participate, yet have neither a garden nor space for containers?

Enlisting as a volunteer at a garden open to the public, signing up to help your Northumbria in Bloom initiative, or identifying someone prepared to share an allotment are options.

A seasoned volunteer, I’ve witnessed The Alnwick Garden’s considerable charitable offering blossom over time.

It offers a diversity of activities that embrace the age demographic. Within the Roots & Shoots project, the Gentlemen’s Garden and Schools Allotments are of special interest.

Friend George, the gardener who co-ordinates activities in this area, explained that The Gentlemen’s Garden presents the opportunity to socialise, share skills and forge friendships.

Each of the 10 participants who have attended every Thursday for circa three years has individual plots, like mini-allotments, some with raised beds.

In keeping with tradition, there is a shed, unusually pentagonal in shape, which I had the pleasure of inspecting. Good seating, a facility for making hot drinks and framed images on the walls caught the eye. A row of 10 mugs hanging on hooks and bearing images of the owners were spotless.

What a brilliant environment for relaxation after a spell of gardening. I almost asked to be added to the members’ waiting list.

Roots & Shoots also hosts youngsters from 10 Northumberland schools, each with an allotment. These exist side-by-side along the pathway, each sporting its own traditional scarecrow.

Children from as far afield as Berwick and Prudhoe pay five visits a year. This involves preparing plots, sowing seeds, planting out, maintenance and harvesting.

Two highlights of the year are the June and September visits. The first is to inspect, cook and eat potatoes planted earlier in containers, and second is the harvest when vegetables are dug, cleaned and displayed in the Pavilion. This final event is non-competitive, a celebration of the produce.

These are just two of the charitable projects based in this exciting walled area.

There’s also a wide variety of healthy vegetable crops in ground-based and raised beds, fruit and flowers. Better still, paved pathways encourage easy access.

Once you’ve gained entry to The Alnwick Garden, a visit to Roots & Shoots will not disappoint.