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Stepping Stones is growing for gold again!
10:00am Sunday 14th October 2012 in News
This year the Stepping Stones project in Skipton was awarded an accolade which symbolised how far the organisation had come since its modest beginnings 13 years ago.
It won a gold rose in the public and charitable institution category in the Royal Horticultural Society Yorkshire in Bloom competition.
The work of the 15 or so adults with learning difficulties can be seen around Skipton, in hanging baskets, in town centre planters including the bus station and in their contract gardening work.
They have established links with schools and are a collection point for Growing with Grace, the Clapham-based organic vegetable growers.
But the spectacular example of their work is at their base at the side of the Leeds-Liverpool canal next to the entrance to Aireville Park. They have been there on the acre-and-a-half former derelict land since 2006.
Most people see only the ornamental box hedge as they pass – an impressive sight. It is a visit to the actual nursery with its fruit trees, sensory garden, “bug hotel”, decking, raised vegetable area and three polytunnels that a true picture of what it is all about really becomes apparent.
When staff arrived in 2006 – there are now four, led by Dawn Barrett – having outgrown the Snaygill Centre, the place was overgrown, scarred by derelict caravans and broken greenhouses having been a nursery many years before. It had also been infiltrated by drug users.
“It was a real eyesore,” said Hadyn Davies, who looks after Health and Adult Services in Craven. Until his recent promotion he was manager of Stepping Stones. The whole project is funded by North Yorkshire County Council which lets the site at a peppercorn rent.
We were speaking in one of the teaching areas in the prefabricated building which also contains a workshop, kitchen cloakroom and office.
“Changing this building is something we will be looking to do. It had already been used when we got it and it probably has only another five years or so,” said Hadyn.
“Even so, this is a beautiful location next to the canal. We are open five days a week and have about 15 people who attend.
“They are doing courses to give them work-based skills.
“There is a fantastic team ethos. People help each other which means some people are assisting those others that are not so able. It’s about supporting vulnerable people to see them included in the wider community.”
Longer term, it is hoped to develop a new building and to make the site more inclusive of the wider public, to develop training facilities and perhaps to include a cafe to generate more income.