4th October 2018

A new community project to help people develop new life skills through gardening and outdoor activity is now underway at Abbotsford, the former home of Sir Walter Scott, between Galashiels and Melrose.

The project, ‘Learning in a Heritage Landscape – Transforming Work’, is rooted in Scott’s passion for the outdoors and its health benefits and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and LEADER, a European funding programme which supports rural community and business projects.

Working with the unique heritage landscape created by Scott, the project aims to offer new skills and inspiration to individuals and groups within the local community. This includes enhancing employability and life skills for young job seekers and adults experiencing long-term unemployment. It will also provide opportunities for young people and adults with additional needs and mental health issues to engage with this inspiring local resource.

Students from Works+ in Galashiels enjoy exploring the herb garden at Abbotsford: (l-r) Ryan Allen, Kieran Barnett and Adele Ennis, with Mary Kenny, Gardens Heritage Engagement Officer, and Lucy Woods, Heritage Engagement Assistant.

Abbotsford is run by The Abbotsford Trust, an independent charity, which aims to protect Scott’s heritage and widen access for the community. Giles Ingram, Trust Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to have secured this funding, which enables the Trust to provide a new service for the local community. We’re now looking forward to welcoming local groups on site.”

The project, which runs until October 2019, is also providing employment, with the appointment of a Gardens Heritage Engagement Officer and Seasonal Heritage Engagement Assistants, plus the provision of a Modern Apprenticeship in gardening.

Mary Kenny, the Gardens Heritage Engagement Officer, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to widen the scope of engagement for the local community, who will get to know Abbotsford and its wonderful environment through this project.

“Scott wrote of the benefits of being in nature and the positive impact on his own health and well-being. He understood this for himself and believed in the effectiveness of fresh air and exercise in raising people’s moods and spirits. This aim lies at the root of this project, which will take place in the walled gardens and woodland estate that Scott created.”

As part of the project a new multi-purpose facility has been built. ‘The Bothy’ has been erected alongside Scott’s original potting shed, to serve as workshop, potting shed and learning space.

A new potage style ‘Herb Border’ has also been created in Scott’s kitchen garden as a learning and demonstration bed. Mary explained: “The plants in the Herb Border are edible, as well as many having medicinal elements, and they all have strong history and stories. Oral storytelling was such an important love of Sir Walter Scott, so where better to bring this in but here at Abbotsford- a home built on stories.”

Lucy Casot, Head of HLF Scotland, said: “Skills are vital for Scotland’s economy, not least in the fields of heritage, tourism and protecting the environment. Using National Lottery players money in this way, HLF will help to equip trainees with the skills needed to make a difference to their own lives as well as to contribute to the future prosperity of our country.”