April 15th 2015 written by My Mother Chief Leopard
The moving story of today was at quite an unexpected place – People and Gardens, The Watering Lane Nursery.
Taor asked me to accompany her to meet the folk at People and Gardens C.I.C to discuss collaboration with the Eden Projects “The Big Lunch”. I had no idea about the project within the project. So here it is;
We drive past St Austell and turn off at Polpean Road and proceed down a delightful spring lane that is bursting its banks with yellows, whites, pinks and purple flowers of various species. We eventually turn into the grounds of Watering Lane Nursery: The drive looked like any farm type drive – a wooden cabin with a reception sign and a few scattered wooden sheds and a few massive glass greenhouse type buildings that greet the eye on first impression.
Then the smiley faces appear as people move between the buildings and poly tunnels as we seek out Ken, and are introduced to his lovely wife Lorraine who offers us tea and exchanges cheerful shouts to other staff on the lookout for Ken. Ken appears and also offers us tea but as it is still early and breakfast not quite digested we gratefully decline and Ken immediately gives us a tour.
One of the best tours I have ever had around a “nursery”.
A nursery is a nursery by my account, but the magic of Ken showing us around and explaining each section, patch or area had a story within a story within a story. The first space with cute deckchairs and garden umbrellas offer a welcome area in the massive greenhouse with information boards that quickly inform that Ken has met Prince Charles, a newspaper cutting of an OBE and other activities and photos of the staff and the project within the project. The main project is with Eden who works alongside the project at People and Gardens where we are presently walking around. It is the project within this project that moved me mostly. Quite unexpectedly.
On the surface it would appear that Ken is merely showing us greenhouses and poly tunnels and fields with various plants, but Ken is a marvel. The information board comes alive when he tells a story about another person in the photo with him and how they had to go to M&S and find clothing for the occasion of meeting Prince Charles. The intimacy and care and friendship of the people in the photo and the jokes they share with each other become more interesting to me than meeting Prince Charles.
Ken then shares his reason for being at the heart of this project – Watering Lane Nursery. He lost 14 family members and friends in a very short period of time when he was younger and as he struggled to come to terms with his grief he found himself inside a psychiatric unit. Ken tells us the story as we move between plants and vegetables and explains why security is necessary due to the cost of some of the more exotic plants they house for the Eden Project.
As we move up into the fields Ken continues with his own story of coming out of the psychiatric unit and not fitting in and having a label. The doors shut on him in the unit and on coming out society shut him out. Ironic in many ways. An invisible door of discrimination can be more damaging than a visible solid door. Ken explains that the people the project helps are the very people society neglects and is quite clear that the space at Watering Lane Nursery provides an important function on many many levels. It is a safe place for those who cannot thrive nor be accepted in Day Care Centres or other areas of learning. Here amongst the extremely clean greenhouses and poly tunnels and fields – are people that are flourishing and making for others to eat, enjoy and provide excellent care for specialist plants.
The stories are varied from Aspergers, Down syndrome, Depression, mental health issues etc. Ken also speaks about the sadness of lives lost over the years. This is a concern for vulnerable people. This is Ken’s concern. He cares – he cares with a passion. A passion that makes this man who can swear and joke as a true art form, also project his vulnerable side. A huge responsibility to care for the vulnerable. A huge task. Enormous.
As we walked I eventually could not stop the tears. I was crying, crying for the pain in the beauty that surrounded me – The beautiful Happy Souls we were introduced to whilst they worked. Toiling that dry earth in the heat, is hard work. Maybe it is that very hard work that sows those souls. There can be no energy left after a hard day’s work on the land to be a menace to yourself or society. Your frustration, anger, bitterness, shyness, loneliness, exclusions from the “norm” can be physically exhausted out of you and in its place you can find peace in just being one with the land and that relationship with the earth as she yields her special powers right back and your hard work is rewarded by the new shoots, new growth, new plants, new day, new life.
I was watching a young gentleman hoe out the weeds on the dry hard soil. It can be like life – It looked barren, unyielding, a down period – a hard period. But like all periods they have an end and a beginning for something new. If life has a dealt you blows you will understand what I mean. Here I was witnessing a new beginning – a new space being created for new seeds to be planted. A fresh harvest to look forward to. As I write this I am ill and maybe I recognised my life in between the hilarious tales Ken shared with us and the sombre tales he shared too. I did not feel a sense of sadness although there were many sad tales told. Instead I was overwhelmed by a sense of victory. Victory to those who stick up 2 fingers to the establishments of life and show us all that there is another way to care. There is another way of doing things and making it a darn side better if you have a passion to make a difference. Just Do.
There is still lots to be done there are many, many more stories to be told and the establishments do not learn lessons. Funding is pulled from important human resources. That is maybe why I cry. I cry at stupidity and lack of change. However a small group of people are making these changes – Important changes. Enough to move me to come home and immediately write about them.
If there is a project you would like to fund, this one is worth our effort to be a part of.
I feel that this is a story for an excellent movie – To make you laugh, cry, scream, feel angry, feel sad, but come out feeling empowered and alive. Ken’s sense of humour would have to take centre stage. His brilliant no nonsense, matter of fact, and humorous way of looking at the world as bullshit as it is but using the bullshit for manure and making good.
I loved my one hour walk and talk. Therapy – who would have thought an hour could move you to tears quite unexpectedly. I am glad and thankful I met Ken today.
If you would like to experience this place, please join my daughters 'The Big Lunch' event on Sunday 7th June, 1pm-5pm at Watering Lane Nursery, Pentewan, St Austell. PL25 6BE.