Southern Housing Group residents sowing the seeds of hope


Southern Housing Group residents are celebrating the official opening of a new garden within the grounds of the historic Quarr Abbey. It is part of a community initiative called Muddy Boots which, since its launch in 2011, has transformed the space at the Abbey.

The original plot was completely overgrown with brambles and weeds, but Southern Housing Group residents, in particular, those requiring full-time care, regularly gave up their time to transform the garden into the beautiful space that you see today. Growing everything from tomatoes and onions to pumpkins and cucamelons, the green-fingered volunteers help to supply produce that has a variety of uses, from being consumed in the Abbey and Tea Shop kitchens, to being turned into delicious jams and chutneys, sold in shops across the island.

Muddy Boots was so successful that Quarr Abbey asked Southern Housing Group if they could take on a second plot. The volunteers joined Father Xavier yesterday to formally open the garden with a special blessing ceremony. Southern Housing Group has now partnered with No Barriers, a charity which empowers adults with disabilities to achieve their goals, to enable more people to take part in the project.

To ensure that residents with restricted mobility can safely get around the garden, it was important for paths to be laid on the new plot. DW Support Services, who provide responsive repairs for Southern Housing Group’s properties on the Isle of Wight, agreed to work with landscaping firm, Groundsells, to pay for the new paths as part of their £6,000 Social Value commitment to Southern Housing Group.

Mark Meredith, Southern Housing Group Community Partnerships and Projects Manager South said: “Muddy Boots began in response to cuts which affected Learning Disability Day Services. I was tasked with finding a project for our residents to get involved in as an alternative to day care services. I had heard that Quarr Abbey was looking for community organisations to approach them with ideas and that’s where it all began.”

Mark and Matt Noyce, Head Gardener at the Abbey, realized soon realized that they could help one another. Mark explained: “Matt told me that the Abbey was building a farm shop and café, so I suggested the idea of growing produce and selling it to the farm shop as a social enterprise.” It was then that the Quarr Abbey Land Use Project was born.

Matt added “It has been amazing to see how the plot has grown and evolved over the years. With so many residents benefiting not only from growing the produce, but also from enjoying the peaceful environment that Quarr Abbey provides. Working outdoors with nature can create a type of therapy in itself and can bring one closer to the creator.”

Andrew Broadbent, from DW Support Services commented: “Muddy Boots is a fantastic example of a community coming together and we are delighted to be able to support this project. It was a pleasure to work and support Southern Housing Group and the Abbey.”