Students designing and building a garden for young people with special needs

August 2015

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Three Writtle College students are designing and helping to build an uplifting garden for young people with Autism, learning difficulties and special needs.

The project, which will be launched at an event on Friday 14 August, is for the Chelmsford-based charity InterAct and has been given the support of the star of hit television series The Autistic Gardener.

Scott Downes and Sam Moore – who were part of the College’s Young Gardeners of the Year winning team at the Ideal Home Show 2015 – along with fellow student Thomas Brindle have designed a garden for InterAct’s Aspire Centre at Moulsham Mill, Chelmsford, which will be built in partnership with GRAHAM Construction.

On hearing about the project, The Autistic Gardener, Alan Gardner, was eager to wish the team luck: “It was great to hear all about the garden project that InterAct are developing in Chelmsford for people with Autism and other special needs. With a willing band of the people they support and volunteers, they are working with Writtle College and GRAHAM Construction, to create a space for the community to enjoy for a long time to come. Good luck InterAct!”

Scott, from Bishops Stortford, who is going into his second year of a Horticulture degree, is leading the project team. He said: “The 500m2 space is currently overgrown but we plan to turn it into a comforting, practical garden which will give these young people a place to socialise, relax and develop their skills and confidence. The garden will also enable them to get involved in gardening, which is known to have a therapeutic effect, in a way that will cater for their different abilities.”

Sam, from Great Totham, has just completed a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horticulture at Writtle College and will start studying for a degree in Landscape and Garden Design in September. He explained: “The design has a wildlife area, sensory planting, a patio area with a checkerboard for games and social events, a ‘living wall’, a vegetable area with raised planters accessible for those in wheelchairs, a woodland walk area, a stream running over a drystone wall and quiet spaces for relaxation, contemplation and one-to-one support.”

Tom, from Chelmer Village, a second year Horticulture student, added: “We have focussed on using recycled materials where possible, and are looking forward to transforming the site into a space that is both useful and beneficial to the people the charity supports, its staff and volunteers.”

The project is being supported by GRAHAM Construction, which is currently working on the A138 Chelmer Viaduct replacement project between the Army and Navy roundabout and Chelmer Village. The company will source some of the materials required for the design, either from its own sites or via its contacts within the construction industry, and will also help with manpower and machinery over the garden’s year of construction.

Anne Pleasant, co-chief executive of the charity, explained what a difference the garden would make: “Gardening is a fantastic hobby that just about anybody is able to take up and has so much to offer – colour, fragrance, design - and we are absolutely delighted to have the support of both GRAHAM Construction and Writtle College to transform the Aspire Centre garden.

“It will open up many possibilities; a place to grow vegetables, create a herb garden, to learn about and observe the natural environment or just to chill and enjoy meeting friends, have a BBQ or enjoy a quiet moment: something for everyone.”

Martin Warner, a youngster who attends the charity’s existing garden club, said: “I have learnt a lot already about planting flowers and vegetables and other gardening jobs. The volunteers are very friendly and make me feel part of a team.”

Richard Lyons, one of the InterAct volunteers, added: “I have found volunteering with the garden club at InterAct extremely rewarding and hopefully is as good for the young people as it is for me. We are all really looking forward to the development of the new garden.”

The project will be launched at a special event at 12pm on Friday 14 August, at the Aspire Centre Garden, Moulsham Mill in Chelmsford, which will be attended by Chelmsford Deputy Mayor Councillor Philip Wilson, and the Rt Hon Sir Simon Burns MP.

• InterAct is looking for support - materials, manpower, plants and/or finance. If you are able to help please contact Susie Nankivell, Volunteer Development Co-ordinator at InterAct on 01245 608333 or

• You can also donate at

• For more details about InterAct visit