We are Chestnut Nursery
Chestnut Nursery is a commercial garden plant nursery growing annual bedding, perennials, climbers, shrubs, grasses, bamboos, ferns, herbs, conifers, fruit trees and exotics that are suited to the local area for sale to our ever expanding customer base at our Nursery site in Kingland Road (on the edge of Poole Park). Also available are compost, pots and honey with the addition of coal, logs and Christmas trees in the winter.
The volunteers help in all aspects of the Nursery, from potting up, plant care and rotation and working in the shop
Our shop is mainly staffed by volunteers, supported by the Friends of the nursery and sells a wide range of gardening accessories.
How we got started
The nursery was Cyril Speller’s idea. His humanity, commitment and dedication to the welfare of the neglected and forgotten enabled the project to bear fruit.
Our philosophy and approach come from him. His message to us remains ‘always try to make sure that people go out of this gate feeling happier than they were when they came in’
Up until twenty years ago, many people assessed as having a severe and enduring mental illness spent their lives confined in large mental institutions, formerly known as ‘lunatic asylums’ or ‘madhouses’.
In the 1980s, it became government policy to close many of the large psychiatric hospitals and for the ex-residents to move to live in the ‘community’. This policy was known as ‘Community Care’, and aimed to restore more ‘normality’ to people’s lives.
While living in the institutions, many of these people had been usefully occupied in growing their own food in the hospital grounds, or making furniture in the hospital workshops. A group of committed people, who had been working with the mentally ill in a voluntary capacity, became very concerned about the implications of this profound change on the people involved, especially as they believed there was no ‘community’ for them to move into.
They came together and commissioned a survey to see which aspect of their lives people with mental illness, who were moving out of hospitals, most wished to change. This identified the great need for meaningful occupation to restore purpose and meaning to people’s existence. A realistic form of work would give structure to their day, the opportunity to make new friends and develop social networks, give them the dignity associated with working, and the chance to regain the lives they had lost due to illness.
A registered charity, the Sheltered Work Opportunities Project, was established in February 1990. Due to the generosity of Bournemouth Borough Council, a site was leased to set up a commercial plant nursery, originally designed to grow plants for the landscape market. The project was named Cherry Tree Nursery.
An interest-free loan of £1,000 was secured, and an old portacabin donated. On 15th April 1990, four volunteers, a manager seconded for 3 days a week from the Dorset Healthcare Trust and a dog, moved in to the wilderness soon to become a nursery.
At first it seemed impossible for the project to survive. The site suffered constant break-ins and vandalism. There were no resources, and our technical knowledge and experience were limited. But if Cherry Tree proves anything, it shows that if you believe strongly enough in something, it will happen.
In 2001, Chestnut Nursery opened its doors in Poole to help to cater for the increasing demand for places. Situated on the former Poole Council nursery site adjacent to Poole Park it is open to the public 6 days a week in winter and 7 days a week in summer.
Friends of Chestnut Nursery
The project started to attract the friends and supporters who have made our growth possible.
Our Friends are a huge support to the volunteers and the nursery – giving up their time on a weekly basis to help in the shop or support across the Nursery. They are the backbone of our sale days and we couldn’t work without them.
If you are interested in becoming a Friend, then please contact the Nursery for an informal chat.