The MASON team has been helping the Hydroponics Unit at Bridge Wellness Gardens in Ellesmere Port with a Royal visit this week
POSTED BY Lucy Mason ON THE 20th November
We have been working with an Ellesmere Port-based charity that works with the unemployed and those suffering from mental health conditions to tell the story of their Royal visit this week.
HRH The Earl of Wessex visited Bridge Community Wellness Gardens and Farm on Monday to officially open The Earl of Chester Hydroponics Unit.
The commercial hydroponics unit, the first of its kind in Cheshire, is a method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.
Plants can be grown with only their roots exposed to the solution. Staff and volunteers at the farm are growing fruit, vegetables and exotic micro greens using hydroponics to order for high end restaurants in Cheshire.
During his visit, Prince Edward was given a tour of the farm where he met staff and volunteers working in the routing shed, the bee friendly Mandala Garden, the seeding tunnel, solar dome and polytunnel. He also unveiled a plaque on the site marking the official Royal visit.
Before he left, he was presented with a hand-made sign, a box of fresh vegetables grown on the farm and a jar of home-made green tomato chutney.
The social enterprise, based on Mill Lane in Ellesmere Port, is a working horticulture farm with organic principles which first began operating in 2014.
The charity’s main purpose is to create permanent and sustainable jobs for the long-term unemployed by growing and selling fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs to the local community.
It also provides a therapeutic environment for people suffering from a range of mental health conditions, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as those with mental and physical learning disabilities.
One of the people helped by the farm and introduced to Prince Edward was Chris Jones, 22, from Saughall. His place is sponsored by British energy specialist EA Technology, which is headquartered in Capenhurst.
Chris’s mother, Michelle Jones, said: “Chris works at the farm four days a week and it has transformed not only his life, but the life of his family. He has learnt to grow all sorts of vegetables, takes a huge pride in his work and, most importantly, the job has given him a sense of normality.”
Clair Johnson, Farm & Wellness Gardens Manager said: “It was fantastic to have a visit from Prince Edward and to show him the amazing work we do here.
“The hydroponics unit is an exciting addition for us because it allows us to grow plants indoors without soil, gives us faster growth all year round and saves on water usage.
“We love to encourage our wellness clients to overcome their mental health and learning difficulties and find new skills. And they do. Every day. It’s so inspiring!”
Francis Ball, Chairman of Bridge Community Wellness Gardens and Farm, said: “I’m incredibly proud of what Clair and her team of staff and volunteers have achieved here.
“Pretty well every day we are reduced to tears by the gratitude of a client, or client’s parent or carer, who gain so much benefit from spending just a few hours with us. It’s inspiring and it drives us on to Grow Better Lives.”
Since it opened, the charity has worked with hundreds of people of all ages, from school children with severe behaviour problems, CCGs and GPs engaged in social prescribing, social services and the long-term unemployed - helping them through what are often extremely difficult times.
They also work with local charitable Trusts and Foundations, as well as businesses with a social conscience.
Benefactors include ForHousing, Barratt Homes, Cheshire Freemasons, Grief UK, Steve Morgan Foundation, Ursula Keyes Trust and the Williams Family Foundation.