Watford community allotment branches out with Thrive windfall

A community allotment in Watford is flourishing with the help of a bumper windfall from Thrive Homes.

The Dig Deep project, in South Oxhey, helps vulnerable people gain skills, training and qualifications, as well as boosting their self-confidence and self-esteem.

We have awarded the project £20,000 for the next two years from our Community Grants scheme, which supports initiatives that make a positive difference to local communities.

The allotment project, run by the charity ASCEND, will use the funding not just to continue its existing work but also to develop as a self-sustaining social enterprise.

Organisers hope to open it up to other community groups as an outdoor training facility, as well as offering a new service helping people struggling to maintain their own gardens.

Dig Deep, now in its fifth year, helps adults and young people aged 16-plus who found school classroom-based learning difficult and left with few or no qualifications.

The project has so far helped 150 people, enhancing their self-confidence and basic skills such as literacy and numeracy, improving their health and wellbeing, and  teaching them about healthier eating and the benefits of the ‘great outdoors’.

They have also had the opportunity to learn horticultural skills and work towards formal qualifications to boost their future employment prospects. Some clients have gone on to do voluntary work and gain paid employment, as a result of their involvement with the scheme.

Dig Deep has supported 38 people in the last year, including nine working towards a City & Guilds in Practical Horticulture, two working for a Diploma in Practical Horticulture and 20 volunteering with the Watford and Three Rivers Trust Timebank project. A number of Thrive residents have been involved with the project since it began.

Thrive has supported Dig Deep with its Community Grants since the project was set up in 2010 and provided practical help on the allotment through Thrive’s staff volunteering programme.

Zulf Awan, Community Partnerships Manager at Thrive Homes, said: “We are pleased to continue supporting this fantastic project which does such great work in our communities.

“Dig Deep is all about realising potential and self-worth, improving people’s life chances and helping them to become more confident to take a more positive, active role in the local community.

“This ties in closely with Thrive’s vision to enable thriving communities where there are life choices and opportunities, so we are delighted to be working with Dig Deep to achieve these goals.”

Dig Deep is a partnership between Three Rivers District Council which owns the allotment site, local charity ASCEND which works to help people into training and employment, and Farming For All which provides horticultural expertise.

Christine Wyard, ASCEND Project Director, said: “This grant is a lifeline for us. If we didn’t have this funding from Thrive Homes, Dig Deep wouldn’t exist – it’s as simple as that.

“Thrive has supported us from the word go, and not just financially. Members of their team are always willing to come out, meet with our clients and find out what is going on. They have become truly integrated into what we are doing and achieving here.”

Local resident Steve Valentine has been involved in Dig Deep for four years and has just gained a City & Guilds qualification through his work there.

He said: “I love coming here, meeting people and learning new skills. I’ve just done a three-day workshop about volunteering and it made me more confident about myself. I’m normally quite nervous but I gave a speech about Dig Deep in front of 20 people and it went okay.

“I don’t mind standing up and talking to people now. I can show people around the allotment, explain what we do and how we grow stuff. It’s nice to give something back – I go home and tell my kids what I’ve done.”

Our Community Grants scheme has awarded a total of around £250,000 to a wide range of community organisations and projects over the last five years.

To apply for funding or find out more, call our Policy and Communications team on 0800 917 6077 or 020 8428 4428.