The garden that keeps on giving
The award-winning Critchley Community Hub recently celebrated its fifth birthday. It’s part of Age UK Salford, and provides a great place for socialising, grabbing a bite to eat, and indulging in hobbies such as gardening. We spoke to Nichola Swettenham, the Manager of Critchley House, about the difference it makes to the lives of older people in the area.
How the hub came to be
Critchley Community Hub opened its doors in 2013, having been taken over from the British Red Cross in 2010. “There’s a covenant written into the deed for the building stipulating that it could only ever be used for charitable purposes,” says Nichola Swettenham, who joined as manager around the time of it.
“We’re an unfunded service, so we don’t get any statutory funding at all, so anything we’ve been able to do has been through grant giving bodies and small pockets of funding,” says Nichola of the impressive undertaking. Three years of fundraising and a whopping £200,000 later, a fairly dilapidated building has been transformed into the marvellous hub standing today.
But wait… there’s more!
Two years after the hub was opened, the garden (picture above) was added. “Before this, it was inaccessible and you couldn’t have people out here at all,” explains Nichola. “As you can see now, we’ve got raised [flower] beds that are more accessible to people that have limited mobility or are in a wheelchair. They can be a part of things, should they wish to be.”
The great outdoors
According to Nichola, the garden can be a vital point of introduction for people to the hub. “The garden here may well be someone’s first step to being part of the Critchley family,” she says. “Gardening is generally something that someone has always been interested in, but maybe they’ve had such a busy life that they haven’t been able to give it as much time as they would like, or they’ve moved from their home into sheltered accommodation or a flat where they don’t have a garden. Coming to Critchley and being introduced to the gardening group is the first step. It gives them an excuse to come into the centre and do some gardening, because of the physical and mental health benefits of it, as well as the positive impact on peoples’ social lives participating as a group and working together.”
A rewarding space
“The garden isn’t just a place for people to sit, rest and relax,” adds Nichola. “It’s an income-generating initiative too.” Because the garden faces south, it enjoys the maximum amount of sun and provides a microclimate that means fruit and vegetables grow well.
And while the gardening group get their green fingers to work on growing and harvesting, the produce is subsequently used in the café. The fruit is used for jams and marmalades, and the vegetables used in chutneys, soups, and to accompany the meals prepared by the part-time chef and sold to customers. “It gives the older people that come here the chance to see the produce they’re growing and the good use its being put to.”
So how will Critchley be celebrating its fifth birthday? “There’s talk of a party later in the year,” suggests Nichola. “You’ll have to come and film it when we do!” Given what an enjoyable day it was at the hub, that’s an offer we can’t refuse.
Are you hoping to spruce up your garden?
Get some handy tips from the experts, or find out whether your local Age UK offers a gardening service.