Disability garden hopes for Belton site

IT was a wasteland surrounded by gorse, but efforts are under way to turn a dusty Belton spot into a tranquil haven of learning for the disabled.

Located at the end of Sandy Lane, a group are seeking to turn the 0.4 acre piece of land into Willow Tree Garden, a place where the classroom comes together with the great outdoors to give a green-fingered education.

The scheme follows four years' hard work and fundraising, with hopes of a launch in September – as long as Great Yarmouth Borough Council gives it the thumbs up next month.

Willow Tree Garden is the brainchild of Dr Heather Sayer, whose 21-year-old daughter Naomi has severe learning and physical difficulties, and Dr Clare Winter, who helps care for her. Both are currently involved with running the Great Yarmouth Special Olympians.

Dr Sayer explained how things have developed since Dr Winter, who helps care for her daughter, bought the patch of land in 2009 for �8,000.

She said: 'We had started looking for a site in 2007 there was a great feeling among those at the Special Olympians that wouldn't it be lovely if we had a community centre where those attending can do other things.

'A lot of parents with children with special needs can also feel quite isolated too, and we were really excited to get it – it felt like we were queens of the castle when we got there and it was brilliant that we could finally start something.

Most Read

'We choose to do what we're doing because we wanted it to be a full circle, from recycling to eventually selling produce.'

The scheme would involve two adapted container classrooms with a greenhouse, surrounded by garden beds.

There would be classes in sustainability and the environment among other things, with the pair, both former teachers, also helping those with disabilities grow their own vegetables.

Ultimately, with enough volunteers they would like two classes a day, five days a week, with everything from rhubarb to spinach being grown, as well a compost bins and a tree-shaded area planned.

However, they emphasise that the site will also be open at certain times for the public to enjoy too.

When not caring for Naomi, the pair of former teachers have spent as much time as possible preparing the site. It seems the idea has captured many people's imaginations, and as well as cash, they have been donated perimeter fencing, a gate, bath tub garden beds and a lawn mower. They also hope the Willow Tree Garden Group, which has forged links with organisations such as Lowestoft College and Centre 81, will be granted charitable status shortly.

Dr Winter said: 'Everyone has been really positive towards the idea, and the more people we meet the more they know someone who is willing to come into the garden and help out.

'We've been talking about it for years, but now we've put the feelers out it's really snowballing.

'It's lovely and it's really surprised us – we've had some big donations and I take overwhelming pleasure in their enthusiasm.'

Of the benefits the garden will bring, she added: 'It offers fresh air, and we will also be looking to do fitness instruction too. It's about getting people to link with each other and keep up self-confidence.'

l To find out more, go to www.willowtreegarden.cfsites.org