Brothers scoop top horticultural award for their work at Alexandra Park greenhouse

Gardening duo Toby and Ollie Hopwood (pictured above) have won a top award for their work to help a community project at the historic greenhouse in Hastings. 

Brothers Toby, nine, and Ollie, 11, received the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Level 5 School  Gardening Award after submitting a 300-word article and photos about their fund-raising efforts for the Alexandra Park-based charity.

The boys from Hastings made bath bombs, lavender bags, packets of seeds and wooden items which Toby sold on the internet. They raised about £60 for last year’s Raise the Roof campaign to put a permanent roof on the 1930s greenhouse.

Now the boys, who are being educated at home, have received an RHS certificate, a plaque and an engraved trowel to mark their achievement. 

The RHS School Gardening Awards have five levels, with certificates and gifts at each level, and a special category for those educated at home.

Adrian Penfold, left, Caitlin Byrne and James Watkins preparing a flower bed.

Toby said: “We’re really happy to have got this award because we know it’s the hardest one to get.  Now we’re working towards an Explore Arts Award, so we are including some of our sewing and crafts in that.” 

His brother said: “We were really excited to get this award because we have put a lot of work into our garden and Toby’s business. We’re making and growing things ready for a sale in our garden.”

Toby, who wants to own a garden centre in future, sells much of their produce via his online business, Toby’s Happy Home and Garden Shop. They have also given donations  to Bexhill and Hastings Wildlife Rescue and Sanctuary and Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Rescue at Dallington. 

Meanwhile, volunteers from Greener Futures: Connecting Hastings and Rother Together  (CHART) have been working at the greenhouse to build flower beds.

The team, led by coordinator Caitlin Byrne, comprises 70 people who help maintain and improve facilities at the site on Mondays and Wednesdays. 

CHART coordinator Caitlin Byrne

CHART, which receives European funding, is overseen by Groundwork and aims to improve the employment prospects for people in Hastings and Bexhill.  

Caitlin said: “We have a few people who have struggled during the lockdown with their mental health or not feeling motivated. Some have been made redundant.  It’s all about gentle gardening. Why not pull out weeds by hand, talk to each other and meet other people in an outdoor setting?”

Caitlin also oversees  similar volunteer projects at Fairlight Country Park, the Bohemia Walled Garden, and Church Wood, Hollington.

She added: “The main aim is to get people closer to work; it gives them more skills and more confidence to return to work and improves their mental and physical health.” 

Greenhouse chairman Linda Pearson said: “We are delighted to hook up with CHART. Watch out for exciting new volunteer opportunities at the greenhouse.”

Electricity has been installed at the greenhouse by Bulb Energy and carpenter Jason Wright (correct) hopes to start work on the new roof at the end of June. 

The greenhouse is open on Saturdays between 10.30am and 1pm for plant sales and donations. Would-be volunteers can contact Caitlin at greenerfutures@groundwork.org.uk or the greenhouse team at info@our-greenhouse.org      

Have you got a story to share? Email info@hastingsinfocus.co.uk

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