A major new mental health and horticulture project is to open at Cumbria’s best known service station.

Kendal-based organic farm and mental health charity Growing Well will expand to a second site thanks to a partnership with Tebay Services’ owners, the Westmorland Family and National Lottery funding.

In Cumbria: SUPPORT: Growing Well volunteers working in a polytunnel at Low Sizergh FarmSUPPORT: Growing Well volunteers working in a polytunnel at Low Sizergh Farm

Westmorland Family today confirmed £150,000 of funding to create Growing Well’s on-site market garden that will supply fresh vegetables direct to Tebay’s kitchens, while a two-year £180,000 grant from The National Lottery Community fund will support the running costs of the charity’s therapeutic horticulture service.

The project, which will create four new full-time jobs, will be sited at Tebay Services Northbound on the southern side of the Tebay Services caravan park. It will fully open to its first horticulture volunteers in January 2023, but it is hoped there will be some opportunities to work on the site and start planting crops from October.

In Cumbria: PRODUCE: Some of Growing Well's vegetablesPRODUCE: Some of Growing Well's vegetables

Westmorland Family is providing the rent-free site, support in kind to carry out the initial groundworks, and £150,000 capital funding to provide polytunnels, raised beds, horticultural equipment and a building to house a site office and meeting space for staff and volunteers, and to purchase a minibus to transport volunteers from different communities each day to and from Tebay.

The family-owned business has also committed to buy up to £40,000 of fresh produce from Growing Well’s raised beds and polytunnels, which will be served to the service’s Farmshop and Kitchen.

In Cumbria: FOOD: The fresh produce will be served at Tebay's Farm and Kitchen shopFOOD: The fresh produce will be served at Tebay's Farm and Kitchen shop

Growing Well Chief Executive Mary Smith said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Westmorland Family to bring our unique model to a second site in Cumbria, which will open up our service not only to the people of rural Eden and Penrith, but up the M6 as far as Carlisle. There are big gaps in mental health services, an ever-growing need post-Covid, and rural isolation is a particular problem.

In Cumbria: PLEASED: Growing Well chief executive Mary SmithPLEASED: Growing Well chief executive Mary Smith

“With a large proportion of our site investment costs covered by Westmorland Family, today’s announcement from the National Lottery is the final piece of the jigsaw and means we have more than half of our running costs covered for our first two years.”

The new site aims to help 100 people a year in Eden and north Cumbria recover from mental health difficulties by volunteering there one day a week for up to a year.

In Cumbria: WORK: Growing Well volunteers working in the fields at Low Sizergh FarmWORK: Growing Well volunteers working in the fields at Low Sizergh Farm

Under the supervision of experienced therapeutic growers and mental health support staff, volunteers, who can be referred by GPs, other health services, or themselves, can rebuild confidence, learn new skills, benefit from peer support and be helped to achieve their goals, such as returning to employment or education.

Growing Well has successfully operated from its six-acre site at Low Sizergh farm outside Kendal for 18 years and it became a fully registered mental health charity in 2019.

And Ms Smith said the charity is already ‘actively exploring’ opportunities for three further sites in West Cumbria, Barrow and Carlisle over the next four years.

In Cumbria: CHAIR: Westmorland Family's Sarah DunningCHAIR: Westmorland Family's Sarah Dunning

Westmorland Family Chair Sarah Dunning said: “We are delighted to be to working in partnership with Growing Well on a project that will help to address one of the great needs in our community, which is mental health.

“We are a business that has locally sourced food at its heart, so we are excited about being able to source freshly harvested, pesticide-free salads and vegetables on our own doorstep.”

In Cumbria: GROWING: Growing Well's salad vegetables in a polytunnelGROWING: Growing Well's salad vegetables in a polytunnel

Michael Boaden, from Carlisle Eden Mind, welcomed the news.

“We are delighted that Growing Well are developing services in the Eden area,” he said.

“We have long been admirers of the innovative work they have been doing for many years in the south of the county and look forward to developing and, dare I say growing, our partnership working as the new service progresses. Congratulations to all involved in this exciting venture.”

In Cumbria: VOLUNTEERING: Growing Well volunteers working in the fields at Low Sizergh FarmVOLUNTEERING: Growing Well volunteers working in the fields at Low Sizergh Farm

Jobs at Growing Well at Tebay Services will be advertised later this month for two therapeutic growers, a volunteer support co-ordinator and an office co-ordinator.

Growing Well will also be recruiting support volunteers, who support the staff working with beneficiaries, volunteer minibus drivers, and volunteer community fundraisers.

To find out more about referring to Growing Well, or getting involved in any way, please email info@growingwell.co.uk.