Sustainable Development Fund:

Abberton Rural Training

A group of volunteers digging soil

The Sustainable Development Fund forms part of the funding that the Dedham Vale National Landscape receives from Defra and is available to a variety of local community groups, organisations, or individuals to support projects for the conservation and enhancement of the National Landscape. 

For the 2020-21 funding year, Abberton Rural Training (ART) were awarded £894 to purchase a water collection system, wheelbarrows, and equipment for their base in the village of Wormingford, Essex.  

ART is an educational charity providing rural training activities and courses for a variety of groups, including young people aged 17-24 who are not in education, employment, and training, as well as people with lifelong conditions, mental health issues, physical and learning disabilities.

70% of the people who come to ART have been living in isolation and all are considered disadvantaged due to vulnerabilities including mental health problems. 

The courses help participants gain confidence, self-esteem, find friends and have positive social interactions and support. For many attendees, this can lead directly to employment, whilst many others move on to volunteering or further education - although for many this will be a long journey. 

The grant from the National Landscape Sustainable Development Fund enabled the water collection systems to be installed for the greenhouses on-site, providing students with a water resource close to the growing beds, and for seedlings within the greenhouses. This allowed ART to increase sustainability by using water from rainfall to tend to crops. 

A lawnmower and two wheelbarrows helped ART to complete the groundworks of the project. Mowing the grass is a task some of the students find therapeutic and look forward to, as well as being an element of the curriculum, whilst the wheelbarrows have many long-term benefits and can be used beyond the life of the project. 

Jacqui Stone, CEO for ART said: “The AONB grant made such a big difference to our Wormingford site, especially during the summer as we were able to capture precious rainfall during the drier periods and volunteers were able to maintain and attend to the site, even during the restrictions forced on us by the pandemic.  

Had it not been for the project we may have lost quite a few crops while students were not allowed on the site, which would have been such a shame after all their hard work. The project worked so well that we were able to supply the village store with fresh produce during lockdown. ART was also thrilled to receive a nomination for the National Landscape Awards for the dedicated work of Andy Thomas one of ART’s key volunteers who sadly passed away this year.

The letter from the National Landscape Board was read out at Andy’s funeral, and highlighted his amazing achievement in overcoming his many barriers to support others and leading a fulfilling and rewarding life’. You can find out more about Abberton Rural Training at