EACH month the Warrington Guardian will be highlighting the work of a local charity which makes a difference to the community.

This month we are featuring the Walton Lea Project in Walton.

TURNING an abandoned relic of Warrington’s industrial history into a thriving volunteer led charity would surely please the site’s former owner.

The Chester Road site of the former home of George Crosfield - with little more than the walled kitchen garden remaining - has been transformed in the past 16 years as the base for the Walton Lea Project.

Its vast garden space proved the inspiration for the charity which works with adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems, mobility issues and early onset Alzheimer’s.

The Walton Lea Project first opening in 1998 with the idea to train and employ people with learning disabilities in horticulture.

Its first shoots came from discussions between Warrington Community Transport and the supported learning department of Warrington Collegiate.

The overgrown gardens, left after the Youth Offending Team programme stopped using the site in the early 90s, were still owned by Warrington Borough Council and offered a base for the scheme.

Thanks to National Lottery funding the project opened its doors in 1998 with the help of volunteers.

Kate Fitch, from the project, said: “We have some very kind volunteers then and now who give their time to help out in whatever way they can.”

Now the centre offers training and employment for more than 80 adults and demand for places is greater than those available.

Steve Perry, a support worker who also volunteers at the project, said: “It’s really vital for the people who come here and without it many people who use the project would be sat at home. They have a social life here and I always make sure they enjoy it.”

And with its expansion - including taking on a site for its sister group the Long Lane project - it has seen the project grow bloom from horticultural based schemes to others including flower arranging, upcycling furniture and woodwork.

NEXT week we meet the people who give up their own time to help to keep the project running.