On an old allotment site by a garden centre near Amersham is an extraordinary garden.
Its groundbreaking purpose is to provide a therapeutic sanctuary to people with mental health problems. People with problems such as Depression or Anxiety, Dementia, Learning disabilities, Head Injuries, Autistic Spectrum Disorders or even loneliness can be referred formally, or can self-refer.
They are the Gardeners, and are supported by an amazing team of dedicated Staff and Volunteers.
Typical sessions run for three hours and can be either short or long term depending on their needs.
Through “Social and therapeutic horticulture” Gardeners gain in so many ways. A nurturing environment where they can learn new skills, including crafts, carpentry, cooking as well as the gardening and garden planning.
Co-founder Charlie Powell has collected evidence in terms of not just improvements of depression, anxiety or dementia symptoms, but also self-esteem, confidence and a sense of belonging. Of course there’s also the benefit of physical activity and fresh air.
She told me that whilst Gardeners can come and get involved with planned activities, it’s also important for them to know it’s OK if they just want to sit in peace and quiet.
There’s a strong emphasis on Biodiversity and the ecology of the site is taken very seriously. This integration with the garden’s environment is clearly mirrored in the Gardeners’ integration with society.
Currently Charlie’s main concern is how to get back up and running in a safe way after lockdown; taking all the precautions needed for Staff, Volunteers and Gardeners’ wellbeing.
I know of nowhere quite like it in the UK. Visit if you can or donate.