Community garden unveiled at Northamptonshire heritage site to educate, produce and equip

A community garden has been unveiled at The Chester House Estate in Irchester, with the aim of establishing a learning environment, growing local produce and bringing the sense of community to partners and visitors.

Based at The Chester House Estate, the garden programme is a partnership initiative with Creating Tomorrow College, Nene Rivers Trust and the Archaeological Resource Centre (ARC). The project will focus on providing opportunities for physical activity, social interaction, and learning about food and resources.

Cllr Helen Howell, North Northamptonshire Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Sport, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: 

“I am immensely proud of the collaboration among various partners to establish a lasting community resource. This garden is more than a source of fresh produce for the café and our vegetable box program – it is a cornerstone of education at our onsite Creating Tomorrow College. Here, students not only cultivate employability and life skills but also gain practical knowledge in horticulture and culinary arts, ensuring they are prepared for the future.”


Rickileigh Edwards, Project Officer at Nene Rivers Trust, said: 

“The expert Curators at the Estate advised us on where we could build the garden so it didn’t interfere with the archaeology under the landscape, and we created the garden through ‘no dig methods’ using raised bed planters built from pallets that we found and repurposed. The students have been using egg boxes as planters to sprout flowers and herbs before planting them in the planters, and we have designed a rainwater catching system off the side of one of the buildings to collect up to two thousand litres of water.

“Potatoes, peas, garlic, chilli, fennel and carrots have been planted in the garden, and flowers and herbs take up the majority of one of the plots as they are shallow-rooted. The waste from the Farmhouse cafe will be used for compost, produce that is grown will be used for food preparation classes organised by Nene Rivers Trust, and we eventually hope to sell vegetable boxes on site at cheaper rates to make healthy eating accessible to everyone.”

The community garden will be open for the public to visit from early Summer, where visitors have free parking and free entry to the entire Estate. The project team are urging local businesses to support with funding, grounds clearance and partnerships to further strengthen the garden as a community asset.

The project has been made possible by the Co-op Local Community Fund and you can visit the Nene Rivers Trust website to find out more about the community garden.

The Chester House Estate is overseen by North Northamptonshire Council and opened to the public in October 2021, following an extensive £17m Nationally Lottery Heritage Funded restoration project.