You may have heard a short piece on the Today programme on Radio 4 last week about the inaugural ‘Gardens and Health week’, an initiative generated by some garden owners of the National Garden Scheme, who wanted to not just open their gardens and raise funds for the nursing charities that the scheme supports but also to become involved in finding ways to utilise gardens to benefit health.
A few years ago the NGS commissioned the King’s Fund, the think tank on medical matters, to research the benefits to health of spending time in a garden. The 65 page report makes interesting reading which you can find here:
However, if you missed the Today programme and with the summer holidays upon us you may find it easier to simply click on this link: @BBCr4today and moving the slider to the 1hr43 mark you will hear how gardens have helped a variety of people.
I too wanted to be involved in Gardens and Health week and offered the garden to the West Norfolk Branch of the National Autistic Society, who I had recently discovered. A delightful group of volunteers steered by mums Karan and Rachel, and having carried out the all essential risk assessments cunningly completed on a mobile phone, they decided to celebrate their first decade in our garden:
The day was gloriously sunny and over 100 members of the Branch came from all over West Norfolk plus some local visitors. Families picnicked on the lawn,
and simply relaxed in the garden.
The Mayor of King’s Lynn and her consort came too, displaying not just her smart chains of office but a genuine interest and so totally delighted to be part of this special day.
The Branch had applied and received a grant from the NGS enabling them to acquire an allotment in West Lynn. I was interested to see what they were doing, so paid a visit to the plot where I found Rachel with her autistic and delightful son Harvey.
The allotment gate was open:
The ground had not been worked for some six years and the first job was to make a secure environment by putting up a fence. The rules allow up to 6′ and must be transparent for inspection purposes (rule 10.3). From this livestock fencing the Branch have proudly displayed their banner for all to see who exactly they are.
Incidentally, the allotment rules, all 17 pages can be downloaded : https://www.west-norfolk.gov.uk/downloads/file/3065/allotment_rules_2017, and for some might be a good holiday read.
It is perhaps interesting to find in this lengthy document no mention of a reduction in fees for charities. I can’t help thinking this enthusiastic group of volunteers are actually doing the council a service and their rent should really be a mere peppercorn.
The next purchase was the all important shed. The rules restrict the size which meant that they were unable to accept the free shed they were offered, so an alternative was purchased. We were grateful for it today as the clouds burst and three of us were able to keep dry.
Then came the hard work. Rachel and friend began to dig and by the looks of the clods heaped on the side it must have been heavy going. The ground suffers from getting sodden so they cleverly dug a run-off channel. Taking on this allotment in May, the requirement from the council was to have cultivated at least 60% of the plot in the first three months (rule 6.1.8). No pressure! However they seem to be already reaping the fruits of their labours.
Raised beds have been built and are waiting to be filled.
The compost bins are ready to put in position but it is not all about growing; a small percentage of the area can be for recreation and this corner is destined to be a play area.
The fruit cage, the correct size (rule 9.2) is a little empty as yet but I now know where I can put my surplus currant bushes. The council supplies and delivers an endless supply of wood chips for the paths. There are plans for a greenhouse which has to be fitted out with toughened glass.
This is a huge task and I am in awe at what has been done. As Rudyard Kipling said ‘Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.’ This allotment is a great project and I am glad the NGS has gone some way to assist.
There is also another keen supporter and that is young Jamie Lefever who aged 11 years old plans to set off from the allotment next Thursday to cycle to the National Autistic Society’s head office in London arriving the following day. He has taken up the challenge to thank the wonderful volunteers at the Branch for helping his sister who suffers from autism.
Anyone wanting to nourish his enthusiasm and wish him well might like to visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jl-wnnas.
I am delighted to see his bike is that familiar yellow. Of course if he should need it, we have a spare one here…