Kendal mental health charity expands into Tebay motorway services

  • Report by Fiona Marley Paterson

Kendal mental health charity Growing Well has outgrown its farm at Sizergh and has started a new service in Tebay.

They've won a £40,000 a year contract to supply food at Tebay Services at what is now their caravan site.

It means people in North Cumbria and Lancashire can now access their service close to the motorway and the National Lottery has given them £180,000 to get the project off the ground.

Growing Well has outgrown its current Sizergh site. Credit: ITV News

Mandy Jones is one of the growers at the current site at Sizergh farm and says it's helped her out of a dark place.

She told ITV Border: "Around Covid time my best friend died and then my dad died and I just got depressed and I couldn't do anything so I thought I'll come here. I like plants.

"All I did was sit and cry and I still sit and cry sometimes but not as much. So it's helped quite a bit.

"I look forward to coming here and I look forward to getting out and I look forward to meeting new people now."

Growing Well was one of the first of its kind 18 years ago. Now it supports around a hundred people, but it's outgrown its current site.

Chief Executive Mary Smith said: "The number of people within it, if it gets beyond a certain point can be quite anxiety-provoking for a lot of the people that we work with. So we felt that we'd reached kind of a natural cap at this site."

But they were also noticing that people were travelling from further and further away so there was a need for somewhere more accessible for people in North Cumbria and Lancashire.

Mary said: "They were all sort of willing to make the journey of an hour plus to get here. And really we didn't think that was fair.

"We've always felt that if you need help, how much more helpful that would be if it was on your own doorstep."

Staff at Tebay services and other local groups are going to come help the team build the site in just three months. Credit: ITV News

Tebay Services has offered a new site, which is just off the motorway. Food grown there will be served to their four million customers a year.At the moment it's a caravan site but development will start in October and people will then be working in it by January.

Head Grower Paul Cambry says there will be an area for storing equipment and where volunteers can have a cup of tea and lunch together, which is an important part of their mental health work. There will also be polytunnels for growing mainly salads.

He said: "We'll have two big production tunnels and then raised beds interspersed throughout. It'll have more of a kitchen garden feel to it than an old static caravan site."But it will be a smaller operation than their farm at Sizergh.

Paul continued: "But still quite intense. We've got more of a higher turnover. We're not growing big main crop potatoes that take months.

"It'll be salads and kind of leafy kales and things that take maybe 60 days to turn around and get in the kitchens."Staff at Tebay services and other local groups are going to help the team build the site in just three months.

It's right next to the motorway making it more accessible for people in North Cumbria and Lancashire. And it gives the charity a market to sell to, to fund their work.

Tebay Services has offered a new site, which is just off the motorway. Credit: ITV News

Sarah Dunning, Chair of the Westmorland Family, which owns Tebay services, says it's the perfect partnership, providing mental health services locally, even for their own staff, and food for their kitchens. 

She said: "It's a real opportunity to raise the profile of mental health; raise the profile of Growing Well, and it's the vegetables.

"We've actually been buying salad leaves off Growing Well for some time.

"But actually to be growing organic vegetables on our site a few meters down from Tebay services and to be able to sell those in our farm shop and use them in our kitchen and offer that to our customers, that's really, really exciting."

It will also showcase the charity to all the motorway service station's customers, which the charity hopes will help future fundraising. It will employ four staff.