Our Story

The Earthworks Story

25 years ago our journey began with the closure of five large psychiatric hospitals that were situated in and around St Albans. Residents made the positive move into supported, community-based housing. But links with the community were lacking.

In response to these changes in social care, the Earthworks steering committee was born. We aimed to meet the aspirations of people with learning disabilities for social involvement and creative occupation. Our driving principle was, and still is, to develop a place where people of all abilities work together as equals.

Extensive consultation with service users, carers and social services revealed land-based activity to be the most popular creative occupation. After five years' preparation and consultation, we leased a two-acre site of waste ground in Hixberry Lane, St Albans from the District Council.

Over 25 years Earthworkers, supported by staff and volunteers, have transformed waste land into 3.5 acres of beautiful and flourishing eco-gardens including habitat, production and sensory spaces as well as a purpose built eco-building. Supported by volunteers, local schools and community groups, we are people of all abilities learning and working together. We are involved in a number of projects both onsite and in the community.

1996

Reclaimed wooden site building erected. Woodland and orchard planted.

1997

Compost toilets and reed bed sewage system installed.

1998

Propagation area and wildflower meadow started.

1999

Garden Contracts Project and Farmers’ Market stall begun.

2000

Wind turbine and solar PV panel installed. Tree nursery started. Millennium Maze Project in Highfield Park.

2001

We erect a new metal site building to replace a wooden building destroyed in by fire. Wood stove installed to keep us warm!

2002

Market Garden project begins with the renovation of a large polytunnel. Dry river bed garden developed.

2003

Charcoal burning and willow workshops begin. We are awarded a Green Pennant award.

2004

We build a beautiful straw bale/cob building and erect a wildlife totem pole at the Millennium Maze in Highfield Park. Our Green Pennant award is renewed and we win Investors in People award.

2005

We widen pathways and access points to the site to ease access for wheelchair users.

2006

Earthworks receives the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

2008

Earthworks provides training and assessment for the NPTC Level 2 Certificate in Horticulture. Many Earthworkers gain their qualification.

2010

We plan to build a new wood working area.

2011

An arson attack once again destroys the Earthworks site hut.

2012

We construct three large sheltered work spaces including a workshop area where Earthworkers can take part in woodwork.

2013

Construction begins on a new Earthworks site HQ.

2014

The new oak-framed eco-building is completed and named ‘The Warren’ in tribute to Lynette Warren, a long standing Earthworks Trustee, who passed away before its completion.

2015

Our 20th anniversary! The car park area is renovated to prevent flooding and we hold our first Christmas fair.

2016

We add sides to our wood shelter areas to create an indoor work and event space. We extend our solar lighting into our marquee and car park. Earthworkers begin growing in their own 1m-square plots.

2018

Earthworks on Wheels wins funding from The Funding Network to begin a rolling pilot. The project supports Earthworkers to go out into the community to use skills used at Earthworks to care for the gardens of vulnerable people.

2019

We design and build our beautiful sensory garden

2020

Earthworks celebrates its 25th anniversary! During lockdown, we support our Earthworkers remotely with our Stay @ Home & Grow and our journal projects.