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The Secret Garden ....of Silent Valley

09 March 2010 13:36

Photograph : The Secret Garden
NI Water’s best kept secret has finally been unlocked, in the form of an old garden allotment which Mourne Heritage Trust and the secret gardeners have brought to life through the Active Lifestyles Programme.

Hidden away for years, the old allotment which adjoins the Silent Valley Gate Lodge was made available by NI Water in support of the scheme which provides a valuable experience for people with a diverse range of abilities to engage with the outdoors. This combines physical exercise, social interaction and environmental education in a number of ways.

The scheme, based at Silent Valley is primarily for special needs groups, aka the secret gardeners, who have taken responsibility for the garden and even grown their own fruit and vegetables.

Dymphna Gallagher, Head of Quality & Compliance at NI Water and who works closely with Mourne Heritage Trust comments,

“NI Water is delighted to be involved with such a great initiative. The old allotment garden, sheltered by traditional dry stone walls and hedges, has been turned into a nursery, growing native trees such as Oak and Hazel from seed collected locally in the Mourne area from ancient woodland sites.

“The original purpose of the garden has also been maintained with the special needs groups using some of the beds to grow their own fruit and vegetables; everything from potatoes and peas to strawberries and redcurrants. There is even a harvest each year from a pair of apple trees which we think have been in the garden for generations!”

Regular groups from local special needs providers, including charities and the local health trust, visit the nursery at Silent Valley several times a week and engage in gardening activities. Everything from sowing, planting, potting up, weeding, transplanting, pruning and harvesting. This gives the participants a sense of achievement and responsibility for the success of the nursery.

A recent grant for the scheme will enable Mourne Heritage Trust to develop and expand the scheme which will allow the work to continue for another five years!

For further information on Silent Valley, log onto www.niwater.com

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