This week is National Gardening Week (26 April – 2 May) and the Royal Horticultural Society are encouraging everyone to get a dose of ‘Vitamin G’ – take a few minutes each day to reconnect with nature and get some ‘green’.

Across United Response, we are working hard to introduce more green spaces at our services as well as focusing more on eco-friendly activities and reducing waste. One of these spaces is our allotment in Blackpool, Potters Den.

Potters Den, named by a person we support who won a competition, is now looking to expand with possible locations “popping” up in Bristol, Cornwall and York. The team got the Blackpool site back in 2017 and it needed a lot of work!

In 2018, Calor Gas sent workers to do some major renovation. They provided key materials like wood for planters and helped to clear space using diggers and other equipment. In 2019, the allotment won a ‘Blackpool in Bloom’ award in the yard/small garden category.

People we support in the local area had been coming to enjoy the allotment but then the pandemic started and visits were no longer possible.

Working on the allotment

Jenny Whittaker – a team manager at one of our Blackpool services – and her husband Chris have been hard at work on the Potters Den allotment, getting it ready and making it accessible so people we support can visit.

Since lockdown last year, Jenny has been voluntarily working on Potters Den for 20 hours a week, including at weekends and on her annual leave. She used to have her own allotment but gave it up to manage Potters Den.

One of Jenny and Chris’ first big projects was to get a custom shed. They received around £2000 from Tesco’s Bags of Help fund towards this and commissioned someone to build it.

“I couldn’t go and buy one off the peg,” said Jenny, “it needed to have double doors, we needed to be able to get wheelchairs in.”

The shed is now complete and Jenny says it’s the perfect sitting space, even in cold or wet weather. It is accessible for wheelchair users and has large windows to let lots of light in.

Hideaway: the custom-built shed is an accessible space to sit in, whatever the weather

The couple have also recently added a polytunnel to the allotment, with Chris moving four tonnes of ballast to make the ground level as it was sloping before.

Recently Jenny added a large table to the polytunnel so people we support are able to do group activities in there. Lots of the furniture and features at Potters Den were donated by members of the local community, including a bright pink bench, given by Sue who runs the allotment next door!

Giving back to the community

Last year Potters Den donated boxes of fresh produce to local projects including The Bridge Project and Amazing Grace soup kitchen. They are hoping to do the same again this year on a bigger scale and they are already growing cucumbers and strawberries in preparation.

A young person delivers a box of vegetables to the chef at a local soup kitchen.
Donations: Joanne delivering a box of produce to the Amazing Grace soup kitchen

Jenny and Chris have also added accessible seating areas with sensory elements including a water feature, herbs and flowers, creating a wonderful green space for people with disabilities or autism to relax in.

Jenny is hoping that they will be able to start booking services in for visits from the end of May. Each service will be allocated a time slot so people can have one-on-one time and it is not too crowded. There will also be tea and cake available for those that want it to really complete the summer garden experience.

Potters Den needs volunteers

Projects like Potters Den rely on the support of volunteers. Lisa used to be a Service Manager for United Response and now works for Blackpool Council. She has been helping Jenny and Chris at weekends.

Even so, there are still lots of jobs to be done – so many that Jenny has written them up on a blackboard! Potters Den are looking for more volunteers who can spare a minimum of two to three hours a week.

“It’s surprising what you can get done in a couple of hours,” said Jenny. “You can weed a bed or do some planting up.”

“Ideally we need someone there every day in the summer because the plants will all need watering.”

If you live in Blackpool and would like to volunteer at the Potters Den allotment, please email:

  • Jenny Whittaker is a Team Manager at one of our Supported Living services in Blackpool.