Horticap: providing training to adults with learning and other disabilities

Horticulture is a sector which requires a huge variety of skills – from plant knowledge to communication and management skills. It can also be used to teach a wider variety of skills, which is exactly what Horticap does from their base at Bluecoat Wood Nurseries on Otley Road in Harrogate.

Horticap provides adults with learning and other disabilities training in horticulture, allied crafts and rural skills. The nursery, garden, wildlife area and shop offer a supportive and friendly working environment so that students may develop their social and communication abilities, extending their knowledge and skills through structured training using professionally qualified staff and volunteers. .

Their students receive hands-on practical training from instructors and volunteers in a wide range of activities including:-

  • Garden maintenance work – both on and off site including contract work with two gardening teams operating in the Harrogate area.
  • Horticultural training – potting up, pricking out etc
  • Helping in Horticap’s shop and tea room
  • Craft work – woodwork, card making etc
  • Social skills – teamwork etc
  • Personal skills – numeracy, literacy, independence, awareness
  • Some students receive training to operate certain garden machinery including rotary and ride-on lawn mowers.

The garden at the nursery is a real asset for the students. Situated at the heart of the nursery their garden now extends to approximately three quarters of an acre and has been developed by students for over 15 years. Horticap continues to develop the garden which has become a focal point for visitors to stroll around and enjoy. The garden also provides a useful asset for plant stock where students can take cuttings and collect seeds for propagation. Students also acquire good gardening skills by maintaining the beds, borders, grass and hedges.

Additionally, Horticap aims to provide a wide range of habitats for resident and visiting wildlife with the development of a good sized pond and wooded area. This has been so successful that they have now developed a wildlife area extension to the garden to include a wider range of fauna and flora habitats.

With the Harrogate Flower Show (both Spring and Autumn Shows) and the Great Yorkshire Show taking place very near-by, Horticap regularly create a show garden. The show gardens are very well received, with the most recent, “The Shire” achieving a gold award and the President’s Cup for the best display at the show (see photographs).  The garden was based on the theme of The Hobbit.  The garden evolves as a team effort, with staff, students, volunteers and the generous support of the Otley and Yorkshire Dales branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association.

The team building ‘The Shire’ at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show 2019.

“This has been one of our favourite designs and one of our most successful to date. We’re always grateful to supporters who come and help our students with the garden; for them it’s their way of helping a small charity like ours to show what our students can do with just a little guidance and support.” Says Phil Airey, Operations Manager

Across the road from RHS Garden Harlow Carr and a pleasant walk from Harrogate’s Valley Gardens, Horticap at Bluecoat Wood Nurseries is definitely worth a visit next time you find yourself in Harrogate. Pop in and say hello from PlantNetwork….