Duchess marks 30 years of success

The Duchess of Northumberland with some of the service users when helped  to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Hepscott Horticultural Skills Unit. 'Picture by Jane Coltman
The Duchess of Northumberland with some of the service users when helped to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Hepscott Horticultural Skills Unit. 'Picture by Jane Coltman
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A service which provides essential training and work experience to people with learning disabilities has celebrated its 30th anniversary.

More than 170 guests attended the Hepscott Horticultural Skills Unit’s birthday event, including past users and the Duchess of Northumberland, who marked the occasion by officially opening a new shop.

The unit provides people with all levels of learning disabilities the opportunity to work as part of a team to plant, grow and harvest crops, while also selling to and engaging with the public.

The money raised from the initiative is reinvested back into the service and is managed on behalf of Northumberland County Council by Northumbria Healthcare Trust, with 43 people using the service on a weekly basis.

Around 200 people have used the facility over the past 30 years, and The Garden Café was opened in 2012, which brought more custom to the site and allowed the unit to sell more produce.

Unit manager Clive Moon, said: “The service has evolved over the past 30 years, from an idea to provide vulnerable adults with an outdoor environment to learn a variety of skills, to the successful enterprise it is today.

“I have seen many people use the service over the years and they develop a strong sense of purpose and identity while acquiring vital skills, which is very rewarding for all involved.

“The self-confidence that is gained by all users creates a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere to everyone who visits.”

The unit has also developed trading with a number of local businesses and a range of products made by its users are on sale at tourist locations throughout Northumberland.