Re-launch for gardening service helping adults to learn life-skills

The official re-opening of Thistles Nursery at Sutterton.
The official re-opening of Thistles Nursery at Sutterton.

A horticultural nursery and day service for adults with learning disabilities has been thrown a life-line by the 

Thistles Market Garden now has a more secure future since the not-for-profit Co-operative took over from Lincilnshire County Council (LCC) - enabling students there to carry on learning invaluable life-skills.

Abigail Blake entertains at Thistles re-launch event.

Abigail Blake entertains at Thistles re-launch event.

Offering a safe and caring learning environment, Thistles also operates like a commercial horticultural nursery.

Liz Judge and Sue Corr have been at the helm for the past few years - employed by LCC as community support workers. The two have now been made directors - on a board of volunteer directors.

Liz and Sue said the future promises ‘more flexibility and access to funding that the county council could not access’.

“Now Thistles is a Co-operative, all of the profits generated go back into improving the service provide,” they said. “Continuing to work in close partnership with LCC, this in turn allows us to accommodate the individuality of this niche market more efficiently, which will benefit not only the people accessing the site but also the local community.”

Adults attend five days-a-week and get hands-on experience of raising seedlings and caring for plants, fruit and vegetables. Numeracy and literacy is also built into the programme. For the last three years, Thistles has supported Boston in Bloom, growing and supplying plants and helping out with planting. The nursery receives support from the community and helps cover costs by selling some of the produce and by making up baskets for customers.

Justin Hackney chief commissioning officer said: “Thanks to Thistles entrepreneurial plans, more people could benefit from the services they offer which means the services are likely to be more sustainable.”

The handover was marked with a open event and a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Boston Mayor Coun Alison Austin to signify the new beginning. She also handed out certificates to students for learning life-skills, including literacy, numeracy and handling money. She praised their individual achievements and thanked the centre and Liz and Sue for their continuing support for Boston in Bloom.

Receiving their WEA certificates were: Mandy Mitchell, Chris Young, Denise Loriman, Ella Ball, Kate Headland, Shane Sanders, Andrew Cousins, Jean Lewis and David Bradshaw.