Sunderland carers transform sensory garden thanks to £11,000 funding

Iain Kay and Barbara McClennan visit the volunteering gardening group at Sunderland Carers Centre on Thompson Road.

Iain Kay and Barbara McClennan visit the volunteering gardening group at Sunderland Carers Centre on Thompson Road.

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GREEN-fingered carers are enjoying the fruits of their labour after receiving more than £11,000 in funding.

The volunteer group from Sunderland Carers Centre is hoping to transform a derelict sensory garden with a donation from the Mayor and money received from housing group, Gentoo.

Last year, young carers worked on half of the plot in Thompson Road, Southwick, as part of the BBC1 programme Flowerpot Gang, presented by Anneka Rice.

This time, the development project is focusing on adult carers, and giving them a space to spend time away from the everyday responsibilities of looking after friends or relatives.

The Centre, which borders with Margaret Thompson Park, was formerly a nursery, and empty for five years.

It was then chosen as one of the two mayoral charities for 2012 – the other being St Benedict’s Hospice – and last week received a donation of £7,000 from former Mayor and Mayoress, Coun Iain Kay and Coun Barbara McClennan, as well as accepting £4,930 of funding from the Gentoo Southwick Customer Panel.

Kevin Devine, training and marketing worker at Sunderland Carers Centre, said: “The donations are a tremendous boost for the garden volunteers. They have already done some amazing work since we moved to these new premises last year, and have made a great start transforming derelict areas of the garden.

“The funds will really help the group turn the sensory garden in to something special, something that they can be proud of and that they and other carers can enjoy well into the future.”

There are 32,000 carers in Sunderland, who provide unpaid support.

Kevin said working on the garden not only gives the carers the chance to put their horticultural skills to good use, but also socialise.

“Working in the garden – which is very quiet considering we are right next to the park – can be very therapeutic for them,” he said.

“But they also like doing it as a group for companionship and to mix.

“They come in whenever the centre is open and work on it in their free time.

“They enjoy being with other carers, and those who are more experience like sharing their skills.

“Seeing the young carers garden finished last year really gave them momentum to do something with the space and this year the transformation has really begun.”