The new lockdown has delivered a fresh blow to Horticap’s dedicated team of students, who have been unable to work at the popular garden centre on Otley Road since March.
The charity was established 37 years ago to offer adults with learning difficulties the chance to learn practical, personal and teamwork skills through gardening.
However, because many of their students have underlying health conditions, it’s been decided that it would be safer for them to stay at home until the pandemic ends. Now, the charity’s leaders fear the latest lockdown will have an even greater impact on mental health.
Phillip Airey, operations manager at Horticap, told the Stray Ferret:
“They are getting so down with it all really, as they are usually so active here. They want to be working. They are absolutely gutted and they keep asking us why they can’t come back.
“They do understand there’s a virus but it’s been really, really difficult for their mental health. When they are here, it’s great for them. As soon as we can get them back the better, really, for their own wellbeing.”
With Christmas approaching, the students would be normally be helping prepare for one of Horticap’s busiest times of year, making holly wreaths and helping out in the new shop. Phillip said the staff are just about managing to keep the place ticking over until they come back, as normally, “the students basically do everything”.
There have been dissenting voices on social media who have questioned why garden centres have been allowed to stay open, whereas other sectors have not. But Phillip said gardening has been crucial to people in Harrogate during this difficult year.
“Gardening is therapeutic. It’s the best thing you can do. We all believe that. We use horticulture as a therapeutic aid for our students. It does them, and me, no end of good.
“The customers get so much out of gardening, especially knowing that our students have grown the plants.”