Call to alms can save gardening project

Paul Humphreys, from Kidlington Voice, with almshouses residents Lily Smith, left, and Jeane Mason, right

Paul Humphreys, from Kidlington Voice, with almshouses residents Lily Smith, left, and Jeane Mason, right Buy this photo

First published in News

AN ENTERPRISING duo selling plants from the gate of their almshouse hope a generous donation can save their gardening project over winter months.

Jeane Mason, 64, and Lily Smith, 85, fear their plants could fall victim to the future frost, as they are in dire need of a new greenhouse.

They live in the Alms Houses, Church Street, in Kidlington, and grow a rainbow of flowers, a feast of vegetables and have hanging baskets that are the envy of passersby.

However, the poly tunnel greenhouse they use to nurture their seedlings is torn and without it, their enterprising past time will fall foul of bad weather as the seasons change.

Ms Mason, who has been at the almshouse for 10 years, said: “We are looking for something which is eight feet by 10 feet, and ideally not glass, as we both could fall and that would be dangerous. We need somewhere we can go to sit in and pot the plants.

“We have been trying to raise money for the greenhouse by selling the plants and we are growing vegetables for the first time this year.”

The pair have already sold more than 100 tomato plants this year from their front gate and are expanding the number of vegetables they grow.

They also have apple, cherry, plum, peach, pear and apricot trees in the well-kept garden at the back of the 17th century houses.

Ms Mason said: “We have both got different jobs. Lily’s is to fill the pots with compost and I plant the seeds. We grow them from seed.

“We have sold over 100 tomato plants already this year. It’s not a business, it is for friends and family and people walking past.”

Paul Humphreys, of Kidlington Voice, has stepped in to help them publicise their appeal on the web.

The Kidlington Voice group was launched in 1996 for people to discuss local matters, but it branched out to an online forum two months ago and it has really taken off.

Mr Humphreys, a former computer studies expert at Oxford University, said: “We wanted to get everyone together. It is financed by the business sector, and they get the opportunity to earn some Brownie points.

“It could branch out in to anything at the moment as it is fairly new. It is amazing what you discover about the community.

“Each day there are more people finding out about it."

Evolution Hair Design Studio in Banbury Road offered to sponsor the gardeners’ online notice.

Salon owner Carly Humphreys, said: “It is a great website for the local community and for local businesses, it has helped us as well.

“I have had a few people coming in saying they have seen us on there and we wanted to do something to help out.”

For more information about Kidlington Voice go to

Almshouses Facts

Almshouses are homes for people who may have difficulty finding a roof over their heads elsewhere.

They provide lower-priced accommodation that can be useful for widows or widowers, people with disabilities, or those who have suffered difficulties in their life, such as domestic violence or deaths in the family.

Many are associated with the church and will provide a home for people who have a link to the area, who might otherwise struggle to find a place to call home.

The tradition of almshouses goes back centuries, and the almshouse by the church in Kidlington was built by Sir William Morton in 1671, as a tribute to his wife and children.

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