In the same month that we see our Natural Affinity Garden being exhibited at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, we are launching our Natural Affinity Community Project here in Kent. 

For many of the people we support at our site in Pembury, Tunbridge Wells, nature has played a key role in their lives and in their mental health. Our beautiful site hosts a range of outdoor activities from growing plants, looking after horses and donkeys to walking alpacas. We also have a wonderful adventure playground in the woods, a beautiful bluebell walk and the warm and friendly Bluebell Café.

Seven in ten people who are autistic have challenges with mental health and 95% experience sensory processing differences. Gardening can be a powerful tool to help overcome these struggles by providing them not only with a calming space and a place to connect with others but also an opportunity to learn new skills, take responsibility for a living thing and in turn help to improve self-esteem and begin to feel better about themselves.

Our Natural Affinity Community Project will build on the legacy from our partnership with Project Giving Back and Camellia Taylor, The Garden Taylor and increase the opportunities our community and those we support have to engage more in nature and green spaces, unlocking the positive impact this can have and utilising our unique location within an area of outstanding beauty in the heart of the Kent countryside.

Our vision is to take full advantage of the glorious countryside and natural features such as ponds and woodland to create:

  • An outdoor experience for the people we support and the local community to enjoy through horticulture and animal husbandry opportunities.
  • A space with activities for those attending our Day Opportunities and friends and families of those who live on the site.
  • Educational workshops for visiting schools and the local community through the development of the Forest School.

With your help we can make our vision a reality, expanding opportunities for the people we support, our staff and our wider community. With your support we can have a positive impact on people’s mental health, grow confidence and independent living skills, empowering them to take their first steps into employment and help secure the financial sustainability of Aspens.

As Robert Shanahan, Aspens CEO says, "In 2023 we have a tremendous opportunity to build on the legacy of our garden RHS Chelsea. Our new strategy to deepen the impact we have for people with learning disabilities and autism will see us increase the hours of support we deliver to 1,000,000 each year by 2027.

Whilst we support people throughout the South East our site in Tunbridge Wells plays a unique role. We see our site as a place where everyone can come and get closer to nature and we look forward to welcoming visitors to the RHS Chelsea garden and to our grounds here for years to come.”

We are looking for supporters big and small to join with us. We are delighted to not just to have the legacy of RHS Chelsea but also have had two large donations towards this project. These have given us a real kickstart and we are already nearly 20% of the way to our target. We do still need your help though and are looking for sponsors for key parts of the project as well as individual gifts towards the project.

If you want to hear more and find out how you can be involved please do drop us a message to [email protected] and one of the team will get right back to you.

Make a donation to the appeal here.