Wirral garden centre staffed by autistic volunteers reopens

A Wirral garden centre and café, run by a local autism charity, has reopened to the public after closing during the pandemic.

Based in Bromborough Pool Village, near Port Sunlight, the garden centre offers a chance for autistic people to gain valuable workplace and social skills while serving customers and working behind the scenes.

Managed by Wirral-based Autism Together, the business first opened in 2012 and has always been popular with customers from the local community.

During the pandemic, Bromborough Pool Garden Centre closed its doors along with most other shops. As a service supporting autistic people, the centre was governed by different safety rules and so was unable to reopen its doors at the same time as other businesses.

Staff at Autism Together used this extra preparation time to develop the skills of some of the people the charity supports to take a greater role in the daily running of the business, particularly in the café area.

Under the leadership of managers Emma Crabb and Mike Christiansen, many individuals have been working hard in the build up to the reopening, gaining awards in customer service, completing training in food hygiene, checking fridge temperatures, correct lifting and carrying techniques, and more.

The Garden Centre itself currently offers a range of perennial plants and flowers in outside areas, including a greenhouse and polytunnel behind the café area.

Alongside the flora, there are gift items for sale created by some of the talented people Autism Together supports, made in the charity’s woodworking and ceramics departments.

Mike Christiansen, who leads the café team, said, “A highlight for many of our visitors is the café itself. There, a team of autistic volunteers, supported by Autism Together staff, are on hand to take orders, prepare food and drinks, and serve customers at their table.

“Our menu items include a full choice of teas, coffees and cold drinks, a selection of sandwiches and toasties, and a range of cakes and treats for those with a sweet tooth. There’s even a children’s meal deal.”

“There is a free car park next to the Garden Centre site which overlooks the village cricket pitch in picturesque Bromborough Pool Village. The village itself is well worth a visit as it was created as a model village for workers at Prices Candles, and pre-dates nearby Port Sunlight.”

Emma Crabb, manager of Bromborough Pool Garden Centre, said, “We would like to invite customers old and new to try out our reopened garden centre and café in Bromborough Pool village.

“Our vision involves the people we support being at the forefront of everything we do here. They have been involved in planning our menus, what plants we sell, where we place them out for sale, and even with our new branding.

“The garden centre’s aim is to provide opportunities to help the people we support develop a range of social and business skills, including numeracy and communication.

“Our goal is to support our team to eventually get work outside of Autism Together.

“We are a non-profit charity and all money made is invested back into the people we support and their activities.

“The people we support really enjoy sharing what they have learnt with customers, so we do hope to see you at our garden centre and café soon.”

Bromborough Pool Garden Centre & Café is open Monday to Friday, from 10am to 3.30pm.

For more details about the Garden Centre and Café, please visit their dedicated Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BromboroughPoolGardenCentre/

For more about Autism Together, please visit the charity’s website: www.autismtogether.co.uk/

Image: The team of staff and autistic volunteers behind the reopened Bromborough Pool Garden Centre

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