Gardening with Disabilities celebrates 20 years in West Norfolk

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A West Norfolk charity is celebrating 20 years of supporting the green-fingered among us who have a passion for gardening, but a disability that prevents them from indulging.

Gardening With Disabilities has been hard at work for two decades of teaching those who struggle to manage their disability in the garden by using specialised tools and techniques.

Marianne Charles, garden advisor for the charity, said: “We encourage and enable people to manage their own gardens so that they can feel for themselves the therapeutic effects of working outside in the fresh air.

“Most of them say they really enjoy the social aspect of the friendships they develop, the chance to share ideas and to help others find solutions to their struggles in the garden.”

Members of the group, which became a charity in 1998, find support and advice at the monthly meetings which encourages them to find ways of keeping their passion for gardening alive.

With regular meetings and talks, access to tools and advice from Marianne, and trips to visit gardens, there is plenty for members to get involved with.

Marianne said: “My top three things for making gardening easier are the right tools, good access to the garden and the choice of plants, we offer advice and help with all three and more.

“For the wider community, I also offer talks to groups and organisations across Norfolk.”

An inclusive group, Gardening with Disabilities meets monthly at Park House, at Sandringham, where members with disabilities ranging from sight problems and arthritis to those who are paralysed can spend time together.

Marianne said: “It’s actually amazing that many of our members are able to keep gardening at all, but for others, you might not even realise they are disabled. I suffer with arthritis, particularly in my back, which makes it difficult to garden for long periods.”

The group’s oldest member is 97-year-old Ivy Payne, a retired florist who joined the group at the very beginning and continues to garden despite sight problems.

Marianne said: “She loves anything to do with gardening, even though her sight is making it harder to do certain jobs she still loves potting and has lots of pots outside.

“It is all about helping people to enjoy their gardens and giving them the information and support they need to grow flowers or vegetables.

“We also offer advice to carers who just don’t have the time to spend in the garden and need something low-maintenance.”

In the charity’s 20th year, members are encouraging those who struggle to keep gardening but who would love to pursue their hobby to join them at their monthly meetings. They are particularly appealing for younger members, who might not know about the charity’s work in the area.

Marianne said: “Everyone is welcome to come along and join us, even if they are 
just struggling with gardening because they are getting 
older.

“We would also love for more young people to join us for meetings, but understand it is difficult when we meet during the day.”

Gardening With Disabilities is always looking for new members and volunteers.

To find out more, contact Marianne Charles on 01485 525540, or email gdnek08@btinternet.com