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  • Workhorse Generation Team

Colchester community allotment feeds off QUANTIL and Workhorse Generation’s help.

When Mark Clementson, Retail Sales Director at Lancashire based vegetable, herb, strawberry, and ornamental supplier QUANTIL met with Phil Mabon, owner of MABON Design and Print during the 2022 HTA National Plant Show, neither of them expected the result of their conversation to deliver such a difference to the lives of so many people.

Through Mabon’s involvement as a Trustee for the Charity Hub Workhorse Generation they were discussing the work of their supported charity, Greenpath Ventures, who run a community allotment in Colchester, Essex. The allotment provides a vital meeting place for those in its community who are vulnerable or in need of mental health support including people living with brain injury, people living with dementia, homeless people, refugees, and asylum seekers.

Managed by Rob Mann, who himself suffered a brain injury in a car accident in 1994, Greenpath Ventures’ allotment site not only grows much needed food for their community but also offers a safe environment for people to meet and be active. Mann works closely with the City Council, the local Night Shelter, and the Colchester Garrison to supply a green haven for those who will benefit from the safe outdoor space and activities on offer.

Since taking on the site in 2021 during the pandemic, Greenpath Ventures built the infrastructure with the help of volunteers. Creating a vibrant meeting place fitted with reused cooking stove, wood fire, greenhouse, sheds, potting shed, outdoor furniture, raised beds, recycled generator, and even a running tap water system built by one of their regulars, Micky, who is quite a skilled engineer!

However, despite the now great looking site and facilities, one comment they repeatedly received from other allotment holders sat uncomfortably with Mabon, who has worked in the Horticultural sector for 20 years - ‘It all looks great, but what do you grow?’

This is where the team from QUANTIL came in, generously donating and delivering a pallet containing over a thousand vegetable plants to the allotment in July. These were immediately planted by the volunteers and have changed the landscape of the site ever since, along with the lives of the many who have benefitted from the gardening experience and the ensuing harvest.

Mann commented; “We can’t thank QUANTIL and Workhorse Generation enough, the vegetables we have been able to grow have been given to our volunteers, local communities, the Foodbank and other local charitable organisations, the Night Shelter, and shared with the larger community via the Crop Share initiative on Facebook. Those plants we couldn’t find room for in our site were donated to another community allotment serving the other side of the city.”

Mann continues; “One of the unforeseen benefits the donation gave was for families of our armed forces to experience the growth of the vegetables from start to finish throughout the seasons. Being a Garrison city, many of our soldiers and their families are posted around the world at short notice and have therefore never invested time in planting vegetables or flowers in their gardens. It’s been amazing to see the parents and children enjoy this experience and take away something new from being here.”

On behalf of Workhorse Generation, Mabon said: “We can’t thank Mark and the team at QUANTIL enough for their generosity, seeing the change that adding the huge number of plants has made to the Greenpath Ventures’ project and the many people who benefit from it has been incredible, and humbling. With the help of QUANTIL, we’re proud to share the impact Horticulture can have on people’s lives and mental health, and to continue to help Rob and his team with their inspirational allotment. We’re always open to help, if anybody does feel they can assist us with the project, please get in touch.”

Over the winter new raised beds have been built and a further plot taken on the allotment as the charity slowly grows. Further improvements to the infrastructure have been made this year including full wheelchair access to and around the site.

Work is now progressing on building a dementia friendly vegetable patch with an integrated circular pathway. Longer term plans are to build an orchard close to the plot for volunteers, families, and schools to benefit from over the coming decades.

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