Ambitious plans for new gardening skills centre

The Seed Box has revealed ambitious plans for a new gardening skills centre near Banchory that would help its future to flourish.

By Kirstie Topp, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 7:56 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 7:56 am
The team at Seed Box hope to open a second location as they have overgrown their current site
The team at Seed Box hope to open a second location as they have overgrown their current site

The charity has been operating in the walled garden within the Ballogie Estate near Aboyne since 2013.

Members provide training and outdoor therapy to adults with additional support needs – referred to as their co-workers.

The team are hoping to open a second location as they have overgrown their current site. They also hope the new Banchory facility will help to secure the charity’s future.

Charity director Belinda Rowlands told us how the organisation has grown over the past decade, since taking on some “derelict” grounds in Aboyne.

Over the years the walled garden has grown from strength to strength, and it featured on the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden in 2016. The charity also received a visit from an impressed Duchess of Rothesay back in 2020.

The Seed Box started out as a social enterprise but was granted Scottish charity status in 2020.

It provides work and activities that will allow its co-workers to move on to employment.

Staff, co-workers and volunteers work together to plant, grow and harvest various fruits, vegetables, herbs and cut flowers.

They also craft goods including wooden trugs, bug hotels, squirrel feeders, bird feeders, nest houses and Christmas wreaths.

The produce and crafted items are sold online and at events including the Aboyne Farmers Market – which the charity organises.

The Seed Box has submitted an application to Aberdeenshire Council seeking permission for the new site.

The Lochton of Leys base would have a larger growing area and allow the charity to welcome more co-workers.

Belinda said: “We are outgrowing the current site, the bothy is limited in space and accessibility is a problem.

“It’s an issue for deliveries and for just getting people to visit.

“We can’t sell from this site… That’s why we have an open weekend each year in the spring, so people can come and buy plants. We work for our money, what we produce we sell.”

A formal garden, to be located behind the sales area, will be open to the public but it will also serve as an area for co-workers to learn gardening skills.

It would have staff facilities, storage containers, polytunnels and an orchard.

A new modular building will be installed with a canteen, two offices, a meeting room and toilets.

Belinda said: “We would have liked to have built something from scratch but with prices rising we have to be prudent about these things and what is best value for money.”

Belinda explained that the Aboyne site would remain open to “keep a sense of normality and familiarity” for its co-workers.

But it is hoped that they would gradually be introduced to the new premises in time.

In 2017 the Seed Box opened a small shop in Kincardine O’Neil which it trialed for eight months.

Belinda said: “It was great, it did well however it was an awful lot of work. It wasn’t the right location and there was no outdoor space for the plants.”

The charity also wants to give its co-workers the opportunity to learn retail skills.

Looking to the future Belinda said she has “lots of ideas” for the charity but the new site would have to get the go-ahead first.

She added: “It’s daunting but it is exciting.”

If the application is approved the charity hopes to be on site by May next year.