Personal growth

Group of gardeners sitting on a large tree stump

How people with learning disabilities are gaining skills while looking after Islington’s parks

There are lots of opportunities in Islington for everyone to get involved in the local community. Mencap Islington Me Time is one of several initiatives in the borough that support adults with learning disabilities to get out and about. Their regular activities span bowling, cycling, drama, cinema and social events – there is truly something for everyone!

For those who like to spend their time outside, there are also regular walks in parks and a gardening project – led jointly with Octopus Community Network – in Market Road Gardens. The project aims to develop and maintain the park, benefitting both people and wildlife. A key part of that is empowering people with learning disabilities, who might otherwise face barriers to actively getting involved in the local community, and enable them to help shape their surroundings for themselves and others.

Market Road Gardens sit just outside the entrance to Hayward Adventure Playground, a playground for children with special needs. An important aim of the project is making the entrance to the playground more pleasurable for children and their families.

The project has received financial support from Islington Council as part of the council’s commitment to give every Islington resident an equal chance to thrive while making Islington cleaner, greener, and healthier and encouraging residents to get involved in gardening projects. It has also received funding from Cloudesley and is supported by the Harington scheme, an internship programme that supports young people with additional needs who would like to obtain paid work. The interns helped raise beds, planters and seating, and are working to install a new eco rain shelter, allowing parents to stay dry when waiting to pick up their children.

We asked Daniel, Manoj and Alan, three residents who have been involved in the project, what they enjoy about gardening and spending time outside:

Daniel with Fran from Octopus

I’ve been involved in gardening for seven or eight years. I did gardening at St Mary’s Church before. I really like gardening. I like to rake up leaves, look after the soil, and plant bulbs. I’ve planted raspberries and gooseberries. We haven’t been able to eat them yet, though. I enjoy working with the staff and volunteers – they are brilliant people.

I also like to go to parks. Sometimes I go with my family and sometimes I go by myself. I like to go to Highbury Fields. I like to go for a walk, do exercise, play football, and run around the park. I also like to play badminton. It’s fun going to parks – I like to go out, that’s me.

Manoj and Fran

I started getting involved in gardening last year. I have enjoyed it. Using scissors to cut off leaves is my favourite activity. I have also picked up leaves with a shovel and put them in a wheelbarrow.

It’s nice working together with my support worker and the others in the park. We help each other when we don’t know how to do something.

Johny of Mencap with Alan

I have been involved in gardening for a long time. I used to do gardening in a different park, but that’s all done. Market Road Gardens is the main park I work in now. I rake up leaves and make piles for others to pick up. I do a bit of planting as well.

I’ve known the other members of the Mencap group for a long time. We go out walking, to museums, and to the seaside. I really enjoy this – it gets me out and about.

For more information, visit the Islington Directory. Check out more accessible activities in Islington’s parks

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