mAKING CORDIAL WHILE THE SUN SHINES...

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Sun cream was applied before the Maybrook Adult Training Centre gardeners got their hands dirty.

Quicker than you can say ‘grow your own’, Martin, David, Stephen, Declan, Jonathan, Paul and Brian were all busy helping local gardening expert and community horticulturist Gareth Austin to clear a small area in their ‘Sensory Garden’ to make some thirst-quenching elderflower cordial.

“This is an extension of the ‘Grow Your Own’ programme we have been working with Gareth,” explained Day Care Worker Danny McLaughlin.

“We’ve been working with Gareth for the best part of three years now but during the summer he gives up his own time to come to the centre to make sure the guys get their weekly dose of green fingers,” he smiled.

Gareth struck up a partnership with the centre in 2010 when he helped them to transform an unused space at the rear of the building into what the group now call their ‘Sensory Garden’.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the good work that has been going on here,” said Danny.

“The guys love getting outside and there’s always a bit of heated discussion about who is charge of watering the flowers and vegetables with the hose,” he laughed.

“A few weeks ago our cookery group made some food using some of the vegetables grown by the group in the garden. We had some lovely peas, carrots and spring onions and some of the group took some of the produce home with them. The feedback has been very positive.”

Sporting a t-shirt bedecked with a star spangled banner in the shape of Mickey Mouse, Declan Hassan helped Gareth add the elderflower cordial ingredients.

“I am a squeezing the lemon into the bucket,” smiled Declan as his friends Jonathan and Paul helped out.

“It’s very hot, very hot - this is hard work,” he added.

After adding six litres of water to a normal sized bucket, Gareth and his team of gardeners add 700 grams of sugar, the zest of four lemons, two tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 20 sun-ripened elderflower heads.

“The key is to pick the elderflowers on a warm sunny day and sure we have had plenty of days just like that in the last week,” smiled Gareth.

“I’ve been working with the guys for a years now but I wanted to do something different with them so I thought I would use the recent amazing weather to help them to make their own elderflower cordial.

“After we put all the ingredients into the bucket we give it a good stir and then cover the bucket with a piece of muslin cloth. I tend to leave it sitting for a few days and then we bottle it up and after about four weeks it’s ready to drink - it’s especially nice on a warm and sunny day so here’s hoping for a few more of them.”

Over the years, Gareth has built up a strong relationship with the group - so much so that while they make the elderflower cordial, a little bit of tomfoolery starts to creep in.

One of the members of the group, who will remain nameless, becomes a little liberal with his aim of the garden hose and a few of Gareth’s gardeners are not one bit happy!

But as soon the culprit is reprimanded, it’s back to making the elderflower cordial.

“God, it’s great craic with this group,” said Gareth. “You don’t even mind if you get a wee bit soaked,” he smiled.