Our Allotment Project
The Cambridge Cyrenians Allotment Project works with local homeless people and runs on a therapeutic horticulture model across five full-sized allotment plots in the city.
It provides specific horticulture training, supported work experience and a safe social environment for some of the most disadvantaged people in the city.
The team at the project grow vegetables, herbs, soft fruit, tree fruit and wildflowers using organic methods. Participants are encouraged to get involved in all aspects of the project. There are a large variety of jobs that need to be done on site. Some jobs require participants to be reasonably fit, such as digging and weeding. However, there are many jobs which require much less physical effort. Potting on, sowing seed etc can all be done sitting at a bench, for those who are less able.
Participants are encouraged to take away the fruit and vegetables they grow for their own consumption. The project team also get involved in selling a lot of produce on regular stalls at local community centres through the season and at Strawberry Fair and the Mill Road Winter Fair.
The project site covers 5 full sized allotment plots including: 2 plots for vegetable and fruit growing; 2 plots for a wildlife area with pond, a dwarf orchard and sculpture area; and the fifth plot has a tool shed, an undercover work area, a large poly tunnel and the bike lock-up.
The project team have worked in partnership with other organisations including Cambridge University, Chelsea Flower Show, local community artists, a local herbalist, a national volunteering organisation, Kew Gardens ‘Grow Wild’ project, local businesses and other homeless organisations in Cambridge on several internal projects. In 2015, the Cambridge University Architecture Department first year students designed and built 6 new practical structures with the project team, leading to local and national press coverage.
Why are we doing it?
The project offers meaningful occupation for homeless people, helping to provide real work experience and developing new skills. However, for some it can be an essential therapeutic, social place to relax. Regular involvement can improve a participant’s quality of life, reduce social isolation and improve participant’s mental and physical health.
When is it?
The project currently runs every Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10am til 1pm. Limited transport is available to and from the site, with a regular pick-up/ drop-off sites including Wintercomfort.
Who can participate?
The project welcomes participants from all Cyrenians hostels, other local people who use homeless services in Cambridge and anyone who has been homeless in the past. Individuals can self-refer, but we also encourage other organisations to make referrals. Participants need to agree to a no alcohol policy on site, and to be able to use tools safely. We are aiming at a small group size of around 6 to 8 participants at any session.
Supporting the project
Direct and practical help with tools, materials and equipment can be provided through the Good Gifts Catalogue, an initiative of the Charities Advisory Trust.
Want to know more?
If you would like to know more, or make a referral, please contact Ruth Nicolls, the Project Co-ordinator and Horticultural Therapist, using the details on the contacts page.
You can also see more current and planned activities by visiting Ruth’s blog.