The Middle Ground | Cherry Orchards, Bristol

With the help of a grant from The Camphill Foundation UK & Ireland, Cherry Orchards Camphill Community in Westbury-on Trym, Bristol, has started a pilot project called ‘The Middle Ground’, working with adults who are experiencing loneliness, isolation, living with anxiety or chronic depression, or recovering from life-changing events or illness. This gives them the chance to join in the daily life of Cherry Orchards and to benefit from, and contribute to the community.

The plan is to provide weekly sessions of two hours in both Horticulture and Craft, including flower garden care, plant propagation, herb gathering, fruit gathering, compost making, wool felting and candle dipping. Those taking part can work in beautiful purpose-built, all-weather gardening and craft spaces. They can develop new skills and interests, or use and share existing skills. They can pursue activities tailored to their individual interests, needs and capacities. They can be part of small groups that offer each other friendship and support. They can receive support from people with high levels of therapeutic experience.

The Craft Group has focused mainly on dry felting. We have made felted bags for the lavender we have grown and these have been popular at a recent Advent Sale. The group has also produced Christmas angels as well as designed and made felt Robins. Through a contact in London our felted Ladies have been a popular feature of a Book binder’s window display and we sold all ten that we sent off. The shop owner is very happy with the attention they attracted and has ordered ten more.

The Horticulture Group has worked very hard to establish sixteen beds for cut flowers and much experience has been gained and noted. In the autumn, over three hundred bulbs were planted to give us an early crop of flowers. A separate group formed to pick and arrange flowers and we supplied a local café with a big display once a week. We have also continued to propagate and sell house plants and look after the extensive recreational gardens of the community. Herb growing has been enhanced by a course in plant observation and herbs are used herb teas and cooking. Our work is represented at a local produce market of which the whole community are members and which takes place weekly. The market gives only a modest income but helps to get The Middle Ground better known through our leaflets and personal contact.

The grant from The Camphill Foundation has been used to pay one sessional worker as all others involved are volunteering their work. We have continued to be able to cover material costs through sales. We have not been able to contribute as much as we had hoped to the economy of Cherry Orchards but our regular activity is a support in other ways. We are planning another Pop Up Café for the new year in an effort to attract attention in the local community and recruit more volunteers, and raise funds.