Regular contact with plants and the natural environment enhances our ability to cope with stress, illness and injury. That’s very much the experience of those participating in a community gardening project within the Gartnavel Hospitals’ campus in Glasgow’s West End. The project is centred on a 19th century walled garden and adjacent summerhouse surrounded by flower beds and raised planters. Here, patients and local volunteers enjoy a range of hands-on gardening tasks - sowing seeds, digging, weeding, watering, and harvesting the resulting crop of fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers. So, it’s a very productive space where the community gardeners also improve their own physical and mental wellbeing. Volunteers may be referred to the scheme by health care professionals, or they may find out about it by themselves.
The Gartnavel project is being run by TCV on behalf of the Green Exercise Partnership whose members are Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Health Scotland. This is one of a growing number of schemes to utilise the extensive grounds and ‘natural estate’ belonging to the NHS in Scotland. Other organisations who have contributed to the Gartnavel Growing Spaces programme include Art in the Gart, The Coach House Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support.
One of the volunteers, Margaret, says: “I started volunteering after I got physically unwell and mentally not in a good place after leaving a stressful job. I enjoyed the company and the gardening: I get such pleasure from planting a seed and watching it grow.”
Another volunteer, Brian, comments: “I walk here which keeps me fit. I find jobs like hoeing therapeutic and relaxing. If I ever feel a bit down I can put my boots on and come up to the garden for a couple of hours.”
The community gardening activities are co-ordinated by Bryony White, Green Activity Project Officer, who says: “I love working with volunteers. I hope I can make it fun and rewarding for them, but challenging too.”
And for the project’s ‘regulars’, social contact with other volunteers is important too – “This place has brought me out of myself and given me a way to talk to people.”
The Gartnavel project’s key learning points, plus further comments from some of those taking part, are highlighted in the newly published case study ‘Green Ways to Health’.