A project to “beautify” an area outside the Clayton-le-Moors community centre is making the popular hub seem safer – and has planted the seeds of a productive future for students.

Foundation learners from Nelson and Colne College are transforming a piece of land described as, “a dingy, dumping ground” by residents. And their experiences plotting the sensory garden for children to enjoy alongside studying Maths and English in smaller classes at college, has given the learners the ambition to enter a range of professions such as mechanics and marketing.

Blake Taylor is engineering a future running his own motor vehicle repair garage. The 17-year-old Haslingden based student admitted having problems with study at school because, “I am very practical and hands-on. But doing Maths and English at college and going on placement has made me 100% ready for work. Everyone on the Clayton project has been really nice and it has been fun. I feel right at home!”

Foundation Learning at Nelson and Colne College offers students who may not have achieved at school for a number of reasons, the opportunity to move onto further education or work. Courtney Farndell, another student on the programme, loves the smaller surroundings of her classes and her work designing bright decoupage for the community garden. “I like to learn in a place where I have my friends around me, and it doesn’t seem intimidating” said the Bacup based 17-year-old, “I have done mosaics and designed logos as well as improving my IT and learning about social media while at college. Now I want to go into digital marketing.”

Community Activator Ian Hodgson has mentored the young people through the project and said: “Opened in 1996, the centre has been a library and a civic centre and is popular with everyone from choirs to rambling groups. We have tried everything to keep the area clean, but it is a popular hang-out for young people. One of the great things about the project is that it teaches our students that they have a responsibility to their local environment.”

The Prospects Foundation paid for the tools and the tonnes of soil required to create the garden, through the Windfall Fund. Sonja Bottomer from the Foundation said: “The young people involved are learning that they can create a great space which is genuinely valued. They have taken part in projects such as litter-picking which remind them of their impact on their community.”

The student’s work has certainly been appreciated by local residents. Barbara Robinson lives nearby and is a part of the local Stepping Out Ramblers Association. She said: “The mess meant that our centre hasn’t felt welcoming. It hasn’t looked this good for years and we thank all of the young people involved.”