Shenwood Court

Affinity Sutton

Shenwood Court in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, is a homeless hostel for families and individuals awaiting permanent accommodation from the Council. There are a high number of families with young children living at the scheme. 

The scheme’s communal garden was under-used and the scheme managers were keen to bring the space back in to use. They thought that food growing could help this and that it could be a good way to help residents save money by growing their own vegetables and herbs, learn new and creative skills, work with others in the community, and build their confidence in time for their move to permanent accommodation.

Residents worked together to come up with a design for the garden. They split the garden into three zones: food-growing, adults, and children’s areas. They wanted to build raised beds for growing vegetables and herbs, make the existing play area more visible and safe, and build an area for adults so they could enjoy the garden while they watched over their children playing. The proposal was put forward and Shenwood Court was awarded funding through Affinity Sutton's 'Improving the Appearance of our Estates' budget.

The managers of Shenwood Court engaged First Step Trust to carry out the project. First Step Trust is a charitable organisation that supplies work, training and employment opportunities for people excluded from ordinary working life because of mental health problems or other disabilities or disadvantages. They also worked with the Hertfordshire Probation Trust and Youth Offending team, using their Community Payback scheme. The project sought to use recycled materials wherever possible.

Once the garden was complete, a planting day was arranged to help the residents plant the first plants in the raised allotment beds. Staff volunteers from our central office also came along to lend a hand with the event, and finish off some planting that would have otherwise been outside the project’s budget.

Regeneration charity Groundwork facilitated bird box making and bat box making at the event, and helped the young children who lived in the scheme plant the first seeds in the allotment plots.  

The garden’s renovation included making the play area more visible from the flats and from other areas in the garden. Parents can now watch their children play while they are busy in the property or are elsewhere in the gardens, making the area safer.

The garden’s renovation was also completed in time for the scheme’s 21st birthday anniversary, which was held outside in the newly renovated area.

The main communal allotment plots are still well maintained by residents of the scheme. They are well used and a couple of keen residents have established smaller individual plots where they grow their own vegetables. The children’s enthusiastic planting at the initial event has meant there’s lots of produce to look forward to. The first potatoes have been harvested, and the produce was shared between residents.

The scheme managers feel it has had a very positive impact in building the confidence of the residents and helping people on the scheme get to know each other. Moreover, they feel the project is equipping residents with skills that they can continue to use once they move to more permanent accommodation.