Bridge Community Farms get £25,000 of support from Cheshire Freemasons

Farm growing better lives

L->R: Stephen Blank, Nigel Bruce (volunteer), Clair Johnson and Paul Norman (Trustee)

A unique Community farm growing better lives in a deprived part of Cheshire, has been given an unexpected boost from the Cheshire Freemasons’ Charity (CFC). Bridge Community Farms grow and distribute ‘Better Lives’ charity boxes of mixed fresh vegetables and produce which they give to : The Soul Kitchen -City Mission, Richmond Court -Homeless Shelter, Salvation Army, Wesley Church Centre, Chester aid to the homeless , W.R.V.S. Little Sutton, The Women’s Housing Action Group, Trinity Church Whitby food club and The Port Grocery Whitby.

Now Bridge Community Farms’ activities will be extended with the help of a £25,000 donation from the Cheshire Freemasons’ Charity, given as a present to celebrate the organisation’s Tercentenary or 300th anniversary. The money will be used to establish more out buildings to expand the range of fruit and veg grown there so they can give self-esteem back to many more long-term unemployed and problem teenagers and could help it salvage the lives of many more.

For the miracle fields of Bridge Community Farms at Mill Lane, Ellesmere Port have so far found work for the long-term unemployed, and turned one schoolgirl into an award winning star pupil! Francis Ball who founded the community farm two years ago, said: “We were asked by our local senior school to give work experience on the farm to a couple of young girls who had been struggling in the classroom, after working with us one day a week helping to grow veg, salad and fruits in our fields and poly tunnels, one of the girls literally transformed from one of their most challenging students into an award winner”. He added: “As a result of this success, the school now wants to send us several more such students to the farm, and we are looking at taking students from other schools across the town”

Stephen Blank with Phil a long term volunteer










Stephen Blank with Chris who has Autism and learning disabilities is on work experience








The farm’s magical spell conjured up from a therapeutic mixture of fresh outdoor life and working next to nature, has also succeeded in turning long-term unemployed into full time workers.

“Out of more than 60 long-term unemployed, mostly with mental health issues, who came to the farm over one recent period, several went on to find permanent work. Two of them we took on at the farm,  and five others found permanent jobs elsewhere. One of them had never worked before in his life, another had not worked for 22 years!” Francis exclaimed.

Mr Ball explained how the farm provides a therapeutic working environment for people living with mental health issues, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The farm’s manager, Clair Johnson said she personally benefitted from the therapeutic work Bridge Community Farms provide , when she experienced severe stress through her job as a manager at a distribution centre. “I requested leave from my employer to spend time at the Community Farms on a one day a week basis and found the working environment so therapeutic , and was encouraged by Francis Ball to work here full time, and since then my mental health, wellbeing and work life balance has improved beyond measure”

“Research shows that outdoor activity can improve mental health and wellbeing, and help people better manage their mental health problems. Spending time outdoors on therapeutic activity such as gardening or exercise is a recognised as an effective treatment for mental health problems that can be prescribed by GPs. It is a cost-effective alternative to medication and psychological therapy, and can be used to compliment the treatment a person is already receiving.”

The farm sells its produce at nearby Markets, and local businesses have chipped in with sponsorship to enable the Farms to donate freshly picked veg boxes from the farm to the homeless locally through its ‘Better Lives’ veg boxes.

Bridge Community Farm’s Manager Clair Johnson with Stephen Blank


The leader of Cheshire’s 5,000 Freemasons, Chartered Accountant Stephen Blank, who goes by the title of Provincial Grand Master, said: “We are making our donation to this community farm because we believe it will make a big difference to the lives of many people, both young and old, from the locality who feel forgotten and left behind.

“The donation is part of more than £300,000 that Cheshire Freemasons’ Charity are donating to Cheshire Charities and volunteer groups to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England, one of Britain’s biggest givers to Charity.”

For more information about Bridge Community Farms, contact: E: M:07446 699 995