There was never a plan to set up the project, at least not until the summer of 2002 when six young autistic students were visiting a small commercial Nursery and garden centre on the outskirts of Cheltenham. They came, innocently enough, seeking gardening advice and unwittingly became the pioneer founders of 'The Butterfly Garden'. Invited to return and with guidance they teased life into a small, previously unused patch.... and people heard about it.
By November, a quarter of an acre of overgrown, derelict land was fenced off. A development plan was drawn up and as the months advanced the once tired and empty space was transformed. Today the garden extends across more than four acres. It weaves and entwines with 'the original business' (that still operates) and there is an emulation and sharing of daily tasks, that makes the experience very real. Now, over one hundred students attend each week. Many are referred by colleges, schools, day centres and NHS support agencies, whilst others are guided by friends and family. There are students on site every day and together they have transformed a wilderness and helped to shape a stimulating garden experience, with terrific resources.
The Butterfly Garden is no longer just about gardening though. As the project has evolved, people have just turned up offering help and services (amongst them teachers and care workers) and today the provision is both diverse and stimulating. We have volunteers supporting art, music, woodwork and catering as well as the gardening.
The Charity is managed by a team of dedicated Trustees.
The Trustees (whose activity is defined by our constituition) meet on a regular basis to discuss the ongoing development of the project and have an Annual General Meeting each spring. Our current Trustees are Mr Chris Evans (Chair), Mrs Jackie Etheridge (Secretary), Mr Michael Hennessey (Treasurer), Mrs Sue Dove, Mrs Eileen Riddell, Mrs Sarah Sutherby and Pat Youngson.
This group is supported by a strong Accountant. Mr Roger Curtis (of Holbrook Curtis Chartered accountants of Cheltenham) The activities are run and managed on a daily basis by the project coordinator Mr Chris Evans, with help from teachers, support workers and a team of quality volunteers.
We warmly invite contact from interested parties, which can be directed to the trustees or to the 'day' team here or by telephone on 01452-713068 or by post to The Butterfly Garden, The Brambles, Bamfurlong Lane, Cheltenham, Glos. GL51 6SL.
We never close the door on offers of help and the county community has become enormously supportive. We rely heavily on this support to advance. There are many ways that you can help:-