Bringing HOPE to Angus: Hospitalfield's organic garden
New shop planned for the social enterprise in Arbroath
The Hospitalfield Organic Produce Enterprise by Arbroath is reaping the rewards of its successful community gardening project. Catharina Day reports
Created with strong ideals and a great deal of practicality, the HOPE garden gives adults with learning difficulties the opportunity to train and work producing vegetables and fruit. It also provides the local community with organically grown fresh food and plants. Integral to the project is the encouragement and provision of social and educational activities for the trainees.
One of the original founders of the garden, Cedric de Voil works here with volunteers and a full-time gardener alongside 16 trainees, a few of whom have been here since the garden began in 1994. Every year each trainee works towards a certificate of achievement tailored to their abilities.
The rent-free land is generously provided by the trustees of the Patrick Allen Fraser Trust who run Hospitalfield House – a magnificent and inspiring old house where art is encouraged and created in the various studios, and the rooms hold a wonderful collection of Victorian pictures.
The garden, certified to produce organic food by SOPA, includes a harvest of soft fruits such as raspberries, currants, peaches and apples, which can be bought in season, while the vegetables range from Scottish staples such as leeks and cabbages to Asian greens and tomatoes. A shop has taken the place of the very popular vegetable box scheme that operated for ten years. Currently in one of the polytunnels, the shop is due to be moved to a sturdy shed soon to be built by the Praxis workshop run by Voluntary Action Angus. Besides the fruit and vegetables, plants suitable for pots and hanging baskets will be sold, along with herbs and vegetable plants.
Organic and environmentally friendly practices are evident throughout the garden. Companion plants thrive next to each other and a small pond area is home to the toads keeping slugs and other pests down. Steeped comfrey liquid is used as a fertilizer, while a concoction of rhubarb leaves kill the aphids. Recycled items are used liberally in the garden: the trainees have constructed an ingenious potting shed entirely out of plastic bottles, while unwanted compact discs glitter in the sun as they swing between the vegetable rows keeping the birds away.
It’s not all about hard work – various fundraising events are popular with the trainees, who benefit enormously from the project in meeting people, learning new skills, working outdoors and eating the produce they grow. With the new shop due, the future for HOPE is looking busy.
● For more information on HOPE, visit hopegardentrust.org.uk