Tucked away in a quiet corner just outside Ringwood exists a quite remarkable project.

Despite its proximity to the A31, The Lantern Community consists of around 50 peaceful acres, including accommodation, a shop, cafe and craft workshops, where adults with learning disabilities are given the opportunity to “do something meaningful”.

Some 38 residents currently live on site, while around 20 others visit for anything up to five days a week, depending on their funding, to take part in a range of craft activities and to work in the cafe, shop and bakery, all of which are open to the general public.

“The whole essence of what we are about is people with learning disabilities getting up and feeling they’re needed in the bakery or cafe, so that they do something meaningful,” explains day services manager Emma Borbely-Bartis.

The adults, who are all funded by social services, can check timetables and choose which workshops they want to be involved in.

They enjoy a morning session, before going home for lunch, and sometimes returning for the afternoon. The aim of the project is to give those adults the knowledge that they have achieved something worthwhile during the course of the day, giving them confidence, self-esteem and fulfilment.

“They feel like they’ve got a purpose in life and we all need to feel that, and have a real focus,” said Emma.

“That’s what we are trying to offer. It’s not just about entertaining people. Although it’s fun it’s not just about sitting down and being occupied.”

The community was started in the 1950s and is now run by a number of different trusts.

It houses nine different workshops including weaving, pottery, woodwork, a plant nursery and art studio and many of the products created – all of which are Fair Trade and organic – are sold in the shop and cafe.

Last year, following 12 years of fundraising, the project created three new buildings – two of which were built by Greendale Construction – to house the workshops, which mean the older pottery and weavery ones can now be converted into residential accommodation.

“That’s great, as it’s very rare that accommodation becomes available,” explained Emma.

“People don’t necessarily want to move on – it’s their home. They’ve got all their activities, they’ve got a buzzing social life, they’re supported by people.

“It’s a lovely life, it’s great for them.”

  • For information, and to make an appointment, call 01425 460204, email info@lanterncommunity.org.uk or visit lanterncommunity.org.uk.