Community support blooms at Bucks New University


Date: 7th Jun 2016

Buckinghamshire New University has recently installed two new planters with built-in seating, made by a chief woodworker at the Spring Hill Farms and Gardens Project.

The University is keen for the local community to enjoy these new additions alongside students and staff from Bucks. They can be found beneath the willow tree adjacent to the award-winning Gateway building.

The planters were commissioned by the University’s Director of Student Experience, Ruth Gunstone, who was impressed by samples of the Spring Hill team’s work when they were installed in the Frogmoor area of High Wycombe town centre.

Ruth said, “We are always looking for ways to enhance the ambience of our campuses, both here at the heart of High Wycombe and in Uxbridge.

"These wonderful planters provided us with an excellent opportunity to do just that, as well as allowing us to continue forging strong links with local community groups. We are delighted with the results.”

The Spring Hill Farms and Gardens Project has turned derelict land at Spring Hill Prison into a training centre for inmates to learn land-based skills such as horticulture, conservation, woodworking, and craftsmanship skills, and how to grow and maintain fruit, vegetable and herb gardens.

The woodwork side of the project began with the conversion of some derelict potting sheds into a classroom and office and then in the early days of the project some old pallets were recycled into herb planters and from there it has grown.

Spring Hill is an open prison and ex-offenders may only be moved there for the final two years of their sentence. Karyn Buck, one of the project’s founders, said, “I’m enormously proud of the time, effort, and hard work the guys have put in to it.”

The planters were made for the University by an inmate who initially got involved with the project to develop horticultural skills, but quickly became the chief woodworker after rediscovering a talent from his youth. He is one of two inmates who are paid for their work as part of the rehabilitation process.

With only a few tools available to the team, and a limited woodwork shop, building the planters was no simple task. However, the inmate turned master-craftsman is clearly passionate about his work and always appreciates new opportunities to practise his skills.

Tracy Russell, General Manager on the project, visited the University with the craftsmen.

She said, “It’s wonderful for me to see our guys able to take up opportunities like this, working in their element. One of the real benefits of the project is enabling men to interact with the wider community, breaking down barriers, taking them out to food festivals, events and local markets, enabling them to be themselves and the community to see them as skilled men with much to offer rather than prisoners.”

Delighted with the first set of planters, the University has commissioned several more to be installed around its Owen Harris building at the campus in Queen Alexandra Road, High Wycombe.

For more information about the Spring Hill Farms and Gardens Project, go to