Now I know that people often say ‘truly inspirational’ when describing projects, but Ponthafren’s Eco-friendly Garden Project is really just that. We visited the group for a Development Officer meeting last May as we try to hold these meetings at project sites to further support our groups.
As we crossed the bridge to the site which is perched on the side of a river bank, we noticed some imaginative sculptures of figures made from chicken wire. There were also some colourful dragonflies made from glass and I was very keen to see what other creative crafts we would discover.
We were given a grand tour of the facilities along with the beautiful gardens. The centre provides a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for those individuals who, for what ever reason, have found themselves on the edges of society and therefore isolated from the community. This may be because of mental health problems or just a lack of confidence, but the centre offers somewhere for people to feel that they are welcome. The centre is also used by many schools so is educating a new generation in garden skills and environmental awareness. The building offers a library, rooms for crafts including woodworking and a very nicely decorated sitting room so that visitors can just relax and chat with each other which is something that we tend to take for granted. The gardens offer a further area for relaxation, but also the opportunity for visitors to learn new skills. There is further potential for the site as the building is not fully utilised, but the ever present problem of funding limits the buildings use. The building itself is run as environmentally friendly as possible, with PVP roof panels and water-saving ‘Hippos’ in toilet cisterns being used. Co-ordinator Nicky Morris said of the project ‘it’s being made with an ecological framework, so all the hard landscaping fits in with the existing features so we are not fighting against nature and forever having to reclaim it.’ The garden is planted with biodiversity in mind. There were colourful plants to attract the bees, such as aquilegia and hardy geraniums and also various veg patches the produce from which go towards making the weekly Sunday meals, which are available even at Christmas. There is also a rather impressive reflective seating area which was made by members of the craft group.
A presentation was made to the team by the Centres’ public relations group, which is made up of members of the Centre, who go out to community groups to spread the word about Ponthafren and the activities/ support which is on offer. The presentation detailed just how much the centre impacts on individuals’ lives which cannot be underestimated.
All of the facilities/activities are available to anyone for a very small membership fee of £1 per year. Other activities visitors to the centre can join in with are Yoga, arts classes, life skill courses – the list is endless!
The value of this centre to its users is so obvious.
I hope the project continues to make such a large impact on individual’s lives whilst making such a limited, negative impact on the environment!
Kate Fletcher, EW administrator