Families who use this Sheffield hospice enjoy meals made with fresh fruit and vegetables thanks to this volunteer

A green-fingered volunteer has been praised for helping to provide Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice with mouth-watering fresh organic produce for the best part of a decade.

By Rochelle Barrand
Thursday, 15 August, 2019, 06:00
Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice gardening guru Melvin Partridge.

To celebrate National Allotment Week, which runs until August 18, gardening guru Melvin Partridge has revealed his favourite memories of the allotment.

Melvin, now aged 75, has tended to Bluebell Wood’s fully accessible allotment for almost nine years, and have even brushed shoulders with celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh along the way.

He said: “I saw an advert in the shop in Dinnington when I’d been retired for about 12 months.

Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice gardening guru Melvin Partridge.

Melvin, who is a married grandfather of three from Aston, continued: “I’d had 50 years working indoors and I’ve always loved being outside so it was ideal.”

Melvin is very dedicated to the allotment, and tends to it every week without fail, except in the winter months and yet he remains modest about his horticultural prowess.

“I’m no Monty Don, but I do alright,” he said.

“I was here when Alan Titchmarsh came to do the memory garden. The weather was terrible and it rained all day but they did a terrific job and I did my bit too.”

Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice gardening guru Melvin Partridge.

Alan Tichmarsh’s visit came about after the hospice was nominated for the Love Your Garden TV programme in 2012.

Alan and his team transformed an overgrown, unused piece of land at the end of the garden into a dry riverbed, and the area is now used as a quiet memory garden, known as the Dragonfly Garden.

One person who would disagree with Melvin’s humble opinion of his skills is Bluebell Wood’s cook, John Wan.

John said: “It comes in really handy and we try to use it all fresh on the day it’s picked if it suits the menu.

“It’s great to have organic, fresh veg on site and a huge thank you to Melvin for all the work he puts into it.”

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John, along with our Head Cook, Jane, use the vegetables and fruit which is grown in the allotment throughout the year to make a variety of dishes depending on the season.

Recently they’ve been making summer desserts such as raspberry pavolva and fruit crumble, as well as serving courgettes and green beans along with gammon or toad in the hole.

Volunteers built Bluebell Wood’s allotment around nine years ago with raised beds so that children in wheelchairs are able to pick fruit and vegetables.

The allotment is in the grounds of Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice so it’s accessible to children, families, volunteers and the catering staff at Bluebell Wood.

There is a range of fruit and veg grown in the allotment, depending on the season, including things like pears, apples, raspberries, plums, gooseberries, green beans, potatoes, onions, courgettes and lettuce.

Melvin is one of a team of 554 loyal volunteers who give up their time to support the hospice, preparing meals in the kitchen, taking calls on reception and helping out in their charity shops.

Terry Lowell, Volunteer Co-ordinator at Bluebell Wood, said, “We’d like to say a huge thank you to Melvin for all the work he puts into our allotment.

“Wonderful volunteers like Melvin work thousands of hours for us, all unpaid, which saves the hospice vast sums and makes a real difference to our staff. We simply couldn’t care for our children and families without their incredible support.”

National Allotments Week started in 2002 as a way of raising awareness of allotments and the role they play in helping people to live healthier lifestyles, grow their own food, develop friendships and bolster communities.

As part of National Allotment Week, which is a National Allotment Society initiative, sites across the country will open their gates to the public to share their love of gardening and growing crops.

At Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, care is provided for children and young adults with life-shortening and life-threatening conditions. Around 290 families are supported by the hospice, both in the North Anston based hospice and in family homes.

Their support services are wide ranging and bespoke to each family; including end of life treatment and care, music therapy, counselling, sibling support groups, home visits and much, much more. It costs more than £4m to keep the hospice running, and it receives around 10 percent of its funding from government sources.

Please visit www.bluebellwood.org and www.nsalg.org.uk/news-events-campaigns/national-allotments-week.