Horticultural Therapy at Pennine Camphill Community

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In December 2014 I was invited to visit Pennine Camphill Community and its garden by Garden Manager James Lee and Transition Officer Anita Hepple.

Pennine Camphill Community is part of the wider Camphill Movement. The Camphill Movement aims to create community settings where children, young people and adults, many with learning disabilities, can live, learn and work together in an atmosphere of mutual co-operation, care and respect.

The Camphill movement is inspired from ideas of Rudolf Steiner (Austrian philosopher and social reformer) and developed by Karl König, the founder of Camphill.  It is based on the spiritual uniqueness of each person, regardless of their differences.

Pennine is a specialist college providing further education and support for young people who have learning difficulties. As their name suggests, Pennine is more than just a college, it is a community. “Many aspects of life at Pennine revolve around the five households which provide a home life for residential students and work and training opportunities for day students. Day students join one of the houses where they have lunch sharing some of the daily household activities.  Each house has a different character, depending on the blend of people living in the household at any one time.” (taken from their website: http://www.pennine.org.uk/)

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Pennine is located in the village of Chapelthorpe, between Wakefield and Barnsley in West Yorkshire and surrounded by nearly 50 acres of farmland and grassland which is home cattle, sheep and pigs and bees. As well as horticulture they offer a range of therapeutic and educational activities, such as weavery, woodwork, basket weaving, pottery as well as ‘tools for self reliance’ where students refurbish tools. Pennine’s approach aims to stimulate creativity and allow students to build a sense of achievement and develop self-confidence and self-esteem.

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The vegetable and fruit gardens cover 3 acres and consist of four very large vegetable beds, an agricultural sized polytunnel which is adjacent to a series of accessible raised beds made from railway sleepers. The garden also includes two new greenhouses which are interlinked by a connecting door which allows one area to be insulated and heated in winter. They also have access to an indoor work and storage facilties on the ground floor of the craft hub.

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Similar to the traditional Victorian walled kitchen garden the fruit, vegetables and salads are taken to the five on-site houses daily to produce seasonal healthy meals for the day students and house residents. This provides a clear end product for the students growing the produce. They also preserve the produce by freezing and creating items such as passata which are stored for winter use.

The organisation is always on the look out for community projects to be involved in which not only provides a change of scenary for the students but increases the profile of Pennine, the work they do and builds positive ties with the local community, projects such as growing sapling trees for the Friends of Newmillerdam who manage a local woodland.

In order to help to manage such a large site, and is the case with many horticultural therapy projects, the Camphill Community utilises local and live-in volunteers. The live-in volunteers, called co-workers, stay on site for a year and help to run the houses and learning activities. Currently James has volunteer from Colombia and South Korea who help with the garden projects.

To find out more about Pennine Camphill Community please visit: http://www.pennine.org.uk/

You can also follow Pennine Camphill Community on Twitter: @penniner

More excellent videos documenting the work being carried out at Pennine can be found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4vE43fV4KLJjPjREv6DR2Q

You can find how to apply for a student place please visit: http://www.pennine.org.uk/college/applications.php or phone our Admissions Secretary on 01924 255281.

To find out how to volunteer at Pennine please visit: http://www.pennine.org.uk/volunteering/index.php

To find out more Friends of Newmillerdam please visit: http://www.wdco.org/site/Friends-of-Newmillerdam-Country-Park/

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