For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting The Oaks Garden Nursery it is run by local charity Vision 21 (Cyfle Cymru), who provide realistic work based opportunities and practical work experience for people with learning difficulties. The Oaks is a social enterprise located in the Heath area of Cardiff, selling a large selection of plants, hanging baskets, vegetables and herbs to the public, whilst giving the opportunity for trainees that attend to learn many skills from growing seeds, potting on, to social interaction and retail experience.
Last autumn brought the long awaited news that the Victorian house that showcases itself at the front of the nursery was to be handed over to Vision 21 from Cardiff Council, with the support of Cllr Hinchey. This was exciting news for The Oaks as their less-than-inviting portakabin was on its last legs and, having suffered a series of break-ins over several years it made for a very unsettling environment for the staff and trainees.
The Lodge (as the house is known) was in need of a facelift before the staff and trainees could start making use of it. The last few months have shown the huge generosity of volunteers and businesses; United Welsh and Celtic Horizons installed a new boiler system and radiators, Lloyds Banking Group volunteers spent four days giving some of the building a much needed TLC and were able to do so with the generous donations of materials and goods from many businesses across Cardiff. With the hard work of staff, trainees and volunteers The Lodge was ready to be moved into. Andrew Tadd, a long term trainee at The Oaks said “I did feel vulnerable because of all the break-ins [to the portacabin], but now I feel secure, and comfortable.”
Thanks to a very generous £8,000 anonymous donation and the removal of the portacakin it is now possible for The Oaks to make further developments to the nursery. The Oaks team has been busy breaking up concrete to make room for a new paved sales area. The Vision 21 Woodwork Team has created a fantastic pergola that will lead the way to the soon to be blooming polytunnel. Other plans to improve the site include a new herbaceous border and the trainees have been designing a new wildlife garden and learning about what plants can be used to attract butterflies and birds. Thanks to a £1,500 grant from Environmental Wales they now have good quality new tools to make it all happen.
Roy Bailey, The Oaks Co-ordinator who has dubbed the pergola “the eighth wonder of the world,” is very excited about the new opportunities for the nursery and said: “For the first time in 17 years we have been able to plan for the future with certainty.” Roy hopes to create a site that is more attractive and informative for customers whilst providing exceptional learning opportunities for the trainees.
John Williams, instructor at the Oaks since January 2014, said: “I have only been at the Oaks for a year but I’ve seen terrific changes to the site already. I have seen how the staff, trainees and friends of the Oaks are dedicated to improve the site and business.” The nursery will be open for business 9-5, from April. Support The Oaks Garden Nursery and see the fruits of their labour, maybe even purchase a hanging basket or two!
For more invorIf you would like further information about Vision 21 or The Oaks Garden Nursery, or if you would like to make a donation visit www.vision-twentyone.com, like them on Facebook or follow us on twitter @V21CyfleCymru.