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This time last year, Leslie Smith was going through weeks of arduous radiotherapy for cancer.

After his treatment, the 89-year-old came across a leaflet about Thrive.

Being interested in learning about gardening, he joined our Birmingham centre’s Sow & Grow programme last summer, which offers 12 weeks of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture to people over 50.

‘I’ve never had a garden and have always lived in flats, which is my one big regret in life,’ said Leslie. ‘I didn’t know Thrive was here and I thought I would really like to find out about gardening, so I applied.’

The programme introduced him to many gardening activities such as planting bulbs, clearing beds, hoeing, hedge trimming and seed sowing.

‘It was very interesting. I met new people, most of them had their own garden and the ladies in particular knew the names of the plants and I learnt from them too.’

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Being deemed as clinically vulnerable and in a high-risk category meant that during lockdowns Leslie was socially isolated: ‘I wasn’t going out and was staying indoors,’ he said.

Coming to Thrive provided social contact that has benefited his emotional wellbeing: ‘If it hadn’t been for this, I wouldn’t have got out anywhere,’ he said. ‘I have enjoyed every minute of it. It’s been very good; the people were all very nice.’

Indeed, since Leslie’s Sow & Grow group came to an end, he has met up with its other members outside of Thrive to stay in touch.

Coming here, I’m just concentrating on these plants and I just forget everything else.


He was also keen to keep benefiting from Social and Therapeutic Horticulture and has joined Thrive’s ongoing weekly general sessions.

Leslie said: ‘I thoroughly enjoy it. I’m learning about gardening which I don’t know about, I'm making new friends with different outlooks, and emotionally I don’t worry so much about my illness because I have something else to think about.

‘Coming here, I’m just concentrating on these plants and I just forget everything else. I forget how ill I feel.

‘I’m getting physical benefits, such as being out in the fresh air but it’s emotional [support] as much as anything else.’

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