A pioneering programme at Thrive’s Battersea Park Garden Project in London is helping clients to increase their confidence, connect with others and learn new skills while recovering from conditions such as depression and alcohol and drugs addiction.
The women-only programme – which is free and can lead to a City & Guilds qualification in Practical Horticulture – has been running since April and takes place each week in the Old English Garden, a walled garden within the park which is cared for by Thrive.
It was regenerated thanks to the support of Jo Malone London Limited in 2012, who continue to fund the delivery of the programme through the proceeds of their Charity Candle sales.
The weekly sessions are led by one of Thrive’s experienced Horticultural Therapists, Maria Papoui, who explains: "For some people, coming to Thrive is a big step so the Old English Garden is the perfect setting as the walled garden creates a feeling of safety. At the same time, for our more able clients the garden provides a sense of independence and freedom – it’s fairly quiet even when the rest of the park is busy, but we can still interact with the public when they visit the garden while we work."
The programme was recommended to client gardener Jan by her therapist as something that might boost her recovery from depression.
Having previously enjoyed tending gardens of her own, Jan reveals: "I was thrilled to get here as the garden is so beautiful. Our tasks have included planting, weeding and tree trimming – I’ve started a second career as a lumberjack! I’m interested in the City & Guilds qualification and potentially training as a therapist, too."
Would she recommend the programme to others? "I can only say good things about my experience, but you’ve got to want to do it and be interested in gardening to appreciate being here," is Jan’s advice.
"Since starting, my levels of depression and anxiety have shown a gradual decrease and I’m enjoying mixing with a new group of people too."
Client gardener *Becky agrees that the women-only programme is 'a real gem of an idea’, which has boosted her confidence and given her some positive ideas for the future.
"I’m in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and this programme has been amazing for me: it’s had a massive impact," she confirms.
"I have a background in gardening, but here it’s much more relaxed and it’s been lovely to come to a place that’s so full of life and have something to take up my headspace: I think of it as a bit like 'active mindfulness’.
Would I recommend this to others? 100%, yes!"
Want to sign up for Thrive’s women-only gardening programme? Contact Thrive Battersea on 020 7720 2212 or firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information or to become a volunteer.
In order to keep programmes like this going, Thrive needs funding. If you can help please contact us or make a donation. Thank you.
*Name has been changed
Story by Katy Perceval, garden & PR volunteer