Lancaster’s hospice and university are growing together

Lancaster University Staff Survey supported St Johns Hospice.
Lancaster University Staff Survey supported St Johns Hospice.
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With more than 800 lettuces and 124 pounds of tomatoes produced in the last growing season it is safe to say the volunteer-run garden is an asset to St John’s Hospice.

Fruit and vegetables produced in the garden help the kitchen to provide staff, volunteers and patients at the Slyne Road charity, as well as visitors to the Courtyard Café, with a large variety of nutritious produce.

Peter Whitehead and Ben Bibby.

Peter Whitehead and Ben Bibby.

Flowers and plants, which are all lovingly grown from seeds, are also sold to help fund the Hospice’s operations, such as ‘Cosmos’ plants, which are often a popular choice due to their bright colouring and their attractiveness to bees, which are essential to maintaining a healthy and happy garden.

Despite the volunteers working to keep costs as close to zero as possible, their green operations would not be possible without the generosity of the public and local organisations such as the recent £3,442.50 grant from Lancaster University – money that was raised as part of a staff survey initiative.

Catherine Harrison, associate director of HR at Lancaster University said: “As part of our 2018 Staff Survey, members of university staff were given the choice to nominate a charity for the university to donate some money to on their behalf.

“Given this opportunity, our community showed their depth of appreciation for the work of St John’s Hospice by voting in large numbers for this wonderful charity.

“We’re delighted to have been able to make this donation, playing a part in creating a greener, healthier future for the Hospice and on behalf of our staff, I’d like to say thank you for all you do.”

Lisa Morgan, community fundraiser from St John’s Hospice, visited the university campus to thank staff for helping raise the money.

Meeting with members of staff, Lisa explained how the donation will be used to make improvements to the hospice’s volunteer vegetable garden.

“Our vegetable garden is entirely run by volunteers,” she said. “Our food is grown and goes straight from the garden to the table.

“We are a charity and we need to be as self-sustainable as possible. We think using your donation for our garden fits well with your university’s ethos. Thank you so much for helping to make a difference!”

St John’s Hospice is incredibly grateful for this donation and proud to be upgrading their garden to help continue to follow their self-sufficiency and ‘green-thumb’ path.

A demonstration of this self-sufficiency is that all the compost used is produced on-site by decomposing horse chestnut leaves and donated manure.

Thanks to Lancaster University the hospice is delighted with its new greenhouse, materials for ‘cold frames’ to stop plants from overheating in the summer, timber for improving the raised beds and concrete to lay a foundation for the greenhouse as well as upgrading the pathway to the raised beds.

Peter Whitehead, a keen gardening volunteer for the hospice, is thrilled by the university’s generous donation as it means that the garden will now have a larger space for plants such as herbs, squash and many more tomatoes.

“It is amazing to see the upgrading of the garden as it makes working on the garden even more enjoyable for us volunteers as we can grow even more of the produce while keeping the quality high,” he said.

“This is going to enable us to be able to grow more produce, save more money and get fresher food to the patients, their families, and the public who come in to our café.”

Not only is the garden enjoyable for the volunteers, it also acts as a beautiful area of the hospice for patients and their families to visit to see the growing flowers, fruits and vegetables to get a closer look at how some of their food is produced.

Visitors also comment on the abundance of wildlife in the hospice gardens such as nesting nuthatches and wrens, as well as a family of jays.

James Foster, catering supervisor at the hospice, said: “There is no better feeling for a cook than to be able to go outside, pick produce and cook with it immediately.”