Pair set to breathe life into overgrown activity centre

Dorset Echo: REVIVAL: Whitfield Rural Activites centre set to be given a new lease of life by Julie Plumley and Julie MacDougall REVIVAL: Whitfield Rural Activites centre set to be given a new lease of life by Julie Plumley and Julie MacDougall

A MOTHBALLED site on the edge of Dorchester is set to be revived as a thriving community facility.

Whitfield Rural Activity Centre has been sitting empty since the NHS decided to temporarily close the facility for people with mental health issues early last year.

The site has started to become overgrown but a not-for-profit organisation has stepped in to breathe new life into Whitfield and re-open it as a valuable community hub used by a wide variety of groups.

Future Roots will offer opportunities for troubled youngsters, young parents, people with mental health issues, ex-offenders and older people at the site.

The organisation already runs a successful farm facility at Rylands Farm near Sherborne, which is visited by 100 youngsters a week and more than 40 older people.

Now it wants to bring Whitfield back into use and set up a similarly popular centre with a range of activities on offer from art and pottery to life skills and basket weaving.

Future Roots director Julie Plumley admitted they faced a big task to get the site back into working order but she was determined to see the facility brought back into use.

She said: “We don’t want this ever to be lost to Dorchester because this is too good a site.”

Future Roots at Whitfield will boast an enterprise cafe, which will give ex-offenders and people with mental health issues a chance to work and will also offer a children’s corner for youngsters to enjoy while their parents relax.

Julie said: “We want it to be somewhere where parents and children can relax, also it will be somewhere where people can get jobs and learn life skills.”

Future Roots will be working with organisations such as the Dorchester Learning Centre, Compass Centre in Weymouth and charities such as the Alzheimer’s Society as well as local schools.

There will be seasonal activities run on site and art and pottery spaces that can be hired out by local artists.

People using the site will be able to sell what they make, with Future Roots taking a cut.

That will form part of the drive to make Whitfield viable, with the facility also boasting a boardroom next to the site’s kitchen facilities that can be rented out and an office space that Future Roots is looking to rent out to someone with similar ethics.

Julie said: “This has to be a business that’s going to support everybody who visits.”

The public will be welcomed in to Future Roots at Whitfield as it holds an open day on August 27.

Community asked to show support

THE LOCAL community is being asked to support the drive to breathe fresh life into Whitfield.

Care farm coordinator Julie MacDougall said she wants local businesses to help make the site become a great asset to the community.

Future Roots has already received an offer of help from Wessex Electricals in Shaftesbury to help work on the site and is keen to hear from anyone else who can offer support.

Julie said: “Part of what we are asking is for local businesses to offer their support in whatever way they can.”

She said that support could be in the way of donations, sponsorship or donations of items such as paint, carpet off cuts or anything to help them restore the site or even people giving up their time to help clear the site.

She added: “We want to make sure people understand we want to help the local community – I don’t know of another resource quite like this.

“We are saving a resource for Dorchester because if we don’t make a go of it I think it will be lost and that would be a shame.”

Anyone interested in supporting the project can call 01305 251731 or email either julie.macdougall@futureroots.net or julie@futureroots.net

Comments (1)

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7:51pm Thu 22 May 14

scats chicks says...

These guys do tremendous work at Rylands, do not hesitate to checking them out, or being involved as a volunteer/supporter. This is great news for the Dorchester area, and know many will enjoy and benefit from the work they do.
These guys do tremendous work at Rylands, do not hesitate to checking them out, or being involved as a volunteer/supporter. This is great news for the Dorchester area, and know many will enjoy and benefit from the work they do. scats chicks
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