Pembrokeshire Mencap Stackpole Gardens

A visit to the wonderfully peaceful Stackpole Walled Gardens reveals an abundance of healthy fruit and vegetable plants, beautiful wildflowers, a secret garden and the opportunity to indulge in tea and homemade cakes.

Pembrokeshire Mencap Ltd lease six acres of historic walled gardens from the National Trust’s estate at Stackpole. Here they manage the garden for both amenity and produce and provide work experience and horticultural training to local adults and young people with learning difficulties. The fruits of their labour and achievements are astounding with vast arrays of plants, fruits, vegetables and flowers on display.

SDF money (£110,452) has helped towards the design and construction costs of a new sustainable building on the site, encompassing a much needed shop, office, community space, tea room and kitchen. Seasonal produce from the garden is sold in the shop which also provides life skills experience associated with meeting members of the public who buy the produce grown.

In addition to the shop the new building provides space for delivering training and advice to the adults and students with learning difficulties and also visitors to the gardens. The building itself demonstrates and raises awareness of more traditional forms of building construction and environmentally friendly heating and water use technologies. It will also allow for the development of a new course for prospective students interested in catering and retail services.

The new building has been constructed using sustainable materials and incorporating as many sustainable features and traditional techniques as possible. These include:

  • Straw baled main structure
  • Lime mortar rendering
  • Recycled roof water for toilet flushing
  • Eco-friendly disposal of sewage via a sand mound
  • Air to air heat exchange for central heating and hot water.

Stackpole Walled Gardens, which beneifted from SDF funding administered by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority

Labour for the new access road and car park was provided by hard-working volunteers from the Prince’s Trust, who shifted 300 tonnes of local stone – mainly by hand! The timber frame was constructed by contractors but Mencap staff themselves constructed the timber “bucks” which formed the framework for the doors and windows. A group of volunteer army cadets training at Pembrokeshire College harvested ash and hazel stakes from the woodland which were used to secure the straw bales.

A team from the Prince’s Trust, under the supervision of the Mencap staff, erected the straw baled walls; the last bale of approximately 600 was placed by volunteers on 30 March 2012. The steel roof was then fitted allowing a specialist contractor to apply the lime mortar rendering to the inside and outside surfaces of the straw bales. Other work undertaken by specialist contractors included: insulation, internal partitioning and plasterboarding, installation of underfloor heating, plumbing and electrical work.

Next Steps

‘Cawdors’, the new kitchen and community café opened in June 2013 and provides delicious light meals and cakes using fresh seasonal produce grown in the garden.

Undoubtedly, the training and social development skills gained by Pembrokeshire adults with learning disabilities, improves their quality of life. It is therefore hoped that the new facility will also help to increase the number of visitors to the site, with the aim of raising awareness of the work carried out to help adults with learning difficulties living within Pembrokeshire. It will also add to the activities and increase the scope of the experience on offer and generate income for Pembrokeshire Mencap to continue to provide these vital services.