Thrive’s new chair of trustees Faith Ramsay is in a great position to extol the positive benefits gardening can have.
The former city banker and mum-of-two left her lucrative career in London to re-train as a garden designer and in doing so, look after her mental and physical health.
Cambridge graduate Faith, a whizz with numbers and analytics, went into accountancy and banking straight after her degree because, as she says, "that’s what I was good at".
"I didn't really think about doing anything else at that time," she said, "and for 15 years I worked in various jobs within the world of finance, dealing with investments and asset management, travelling a lot and getting more senior positions; but none of it was making me happy."
In fact this fast-paced, competitive lifestyle started to have a negative effect on her health.
Faith has suffered with depression since her teenage years and also lives with Hypermobility and Fibromyalgia – a long term condition that causes pain all over the body. She has always managed her symptoms with medication and therapy, but after a second bout of post-natal depression following the birth of her youngster daughter who’s now seven, (she also has a ten-year-old son and 18-year-old step daughter) she decided to make some changes in her life.
"When I got pregnant we decided to move out of London permanently and bought the house in Berkshire which came with four acres," said Faith.
"I remember standing outside the house, looking at all the space and feeling an overwhelming sense of duty to care for this amazing garden.
"My initial plan was to go back to work part time, and I did some consultancy in city finance, but as I got more into looking after the garden, and with a new baby and a toddler at home, I literally felt drawn towards the earth so gave up work.
"During my post-natal depression I would go out and do some weeding, get my hands stuck in the soil, rip out nettles, and it honestly made me feel better. This is green care working for someone who was not feeling at all well - although I didn't really know this at the time, I was 'self-prescribing’ gardening."
Faith’s introduction to Thrive came when a leaflet came through her door and she decided to attend one of the charity’s open gardens. At the time she was also immersing herself in garden books and going on RHS courses, leaving the financial world for good.
With a diploma in garden design under her belt and a new life of gardening, plants and children, Faith started to build up her new garden design business whilst supporting Thrive and keeping herself informed about what was going on there.
"I was earning 10% of what I used to in the city, but I was 100% happier," said Faith.
Using her new skills, she designed a garden for Naomi House Hospice where she is a trustee, which gave her a great insight in how gardens should work for patients, their siblings, families, staff and volunteers.
"When I first visited Thrive four or five years ago, I was expecting show gardens; I hadn’t fully appreciated what the charity was about, and it wasn’t until half way through a garden tour by one of the horticultural therapists that I really got it and thought 'wow’
"The work Thrive does in helping people achieve what they want, feel healthier, happier and confident, is truly inspiring.
"I look forward to doing whatever I can to help Thrive and bring it to the attention of more and more people.
"It is the leading horticultural therapy charity in the UK and has a worldwide reputation, offering training and education that’s second to none and we should be proud of that. As chair of trustees, I certainly am."