Children with disabilities across Cornwall will have the opportunities to discover a new love for gardening this spring

Newquay-based Cornwall Accessible Activities Programme (CAAP) is giving 75 youngsters everything they need to grow their own vegetables and wildflowers, after winning a £4,940 grant from South West Water’s new £100,000 Neighbourhood Fund.

Work is already under way to buy the planters, compost, plants and seeds needed to inspire the children, with the aim of getting them outside and sparking a new passion as the Covid-19 restrictions ease.

The project is the brainchild of CAAP founder Sandy Lawrence, who saw how much her own disabled son, Matthew (18), enjoyed gardening during the first lockdown last summer.

Sandy explained: “A number of the families we support saw via social media that South West Water was offering grants through its Neighbourhood Fund and so we applied for some money. The whole process was incredibly simple and was really focused on how the grant could make a difference and what the ultimate outcomes would be.

“Many children with disabilities have been stuck inside on screens over the last year, so we came up with the idea of launching a gardening scheme. I’d already seen how much Matthew enjoyed learning about plants and being in nature, so we thought it would be great if others could experience the same.

“The plan is to buy planters and troughs where children can grow a range of salad vegetables and flowers that are great for pollinator insects. We will also be giving sunflowers to the children and their siblings, so the whole family can join in.”

As well as getting the kids out into the fresh air, Lawrence said the project would have a valuable educational benefit. Part of the South West Water grant will be spent on a series of fun Zoom gardening lessons with a professional throughout the year. Sessions will explain how the plants grow, give advice on how to look after them properly, as well as helping the children to learn all about nutrition and healthy eating.

Once the salad plants have finished, CAAP will give each family a pumpkin plant that should be ready for harvest in time for Halloween.

“Our ultimate aim is to inspire a lifelong love for gardening,” said Lawrence. “In the longer term we could well have lots of our kids gardening together, and maybe even getting them to help out in the gardens of places like old people’s homes. It would be great to link up different parts of the community.”

Jo Ecroyd, Customer Service Director of South West Water adds:

“We are delighted to be supporting CAAP in its establishment, recognising the importance of encouraging children to get outside while learning new skills. We look forward to seeing this project develop to change of the lives of 75 local children.”

CAAP was founded in 2014 after Cornwall Council budget cuts led to the removal of activities for disabled children during the school holidays. The charity offers a comprehensive range of inclusive activities for vulnerable youngsters, and now caters for more than 700 member families across Cornwall.

South West Water is giving back to the region it works within and cares about by actively improving the lives of people and the places they love for generations to come. The pandemic has emphasised the importance of local communities and South West Water is investing in supporting people across Devon and Cornwall to build back and connect communities. The South West Water Neighbourhood Fund is making a tangible difference to the lives of people living in Devon and Cornwall.

South West Water is making this investment to better the lives of local people through funding projects which protect the nature and the environment for the benefit of community health and well-being; provide new opportunities for people to learn and develop; bring communities together, virtually or physically – when safe to do so; and/or support the upkeep of local neighbourhood centres and facilities to keep communities strong.