IT’S Thursday afternoon, and a group of teenagers under the supervision of youth worker Rose Salmi are toiling away behind Wilton community centre.
They are helping to transform what the town’s deputy mayor Charlotte Blackmore says was “a grotty green space”, full of builders’ rubble and ground elder, into a community garden.
Along the way they are learning teamwork and practical skills that will prepare them for the wider world.
“And they’re learning about the pride and satisfaction that comes from a job well done,” says Mrs Blackmore.
But the news is not all good, as centre trustee Sue McLaren told the Journal.
“Due to Wiltshire Council funding cuts, Rose and other youth workers like her will be out of a job very soon.
“Surely this can’t be in the community’s or the county’s interest?”
The garden is very much a work in progress, but eventually there will be flowers and vegetables growing in the raised beds the young people have created using donated scaffolding planks, native fruit trees espaliered along the walls, and seating, also built by Mrs Salmi’s teams, for young and old alike to enjoy the wildlife the planting will attract.
Bird boxes and feeders are also under construction.
People from the many organisations that use the centre, ranging from the art club to the farmers’ market, will be free to wander in through the archway the young volunteers created from an ash tree that they pollarded.
Toddlers will be able to plant sunflower seeds, and Brownies will practise camping on the grass alongside a willow tepee donated by the Community Land Trust.
Older residents who do not have gardens will be able to enjoy the satisfaction of growing food on the plot behind the former school where many were once pupils.
Being part of this project is an experience that unites young people from all sorts of backgrounds, including members of the Wilton, Mere and Tisbury Bridging Project and the Wilton youth centre. And in return for their efforts they are awarded leisure credits which are used to fund group outings and activities of their choice.
It was a £1,000 grant obtained by the young people, with Mrs Salmi’s help, from Wiltshire Council’s south west area board that enabled the garden - one of many practical projects run by local charity Seeds4Success, working closely with the youth service – to move ahead.
“Rose is fantastic,” added Mrs McClaren.
“She’s somebody who can talk to kids and motivate them, and who just gives endlessly.”
The pair are concerned that the real impact of the county’s youth cuts may never really be known.
“They have happened at unbelievably short notice,” said Mrs Blackmore.
“We will never know if any young people our youth workers might have helped will end up taking the wrong track, or slipping into a life of crime. It’s quite possible that cutting this service will end up costing us money somewhere else.
“Being a youth leader is a very specific skill.
“We wouldn’t have got this far without Rose.”
n Anyone who can donate plants or help create a mural or mosaic for the garden wall is asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.