The Growth Project: championing gardens for health
An oasis thriving in one of the most deprived areas of Rochdale is helping people improve their mental and physical health by getting stuck in to the joys of gardening and the great outdoors. The one acre site is home to The Growth Project – a partnership between the charity Rochdale and District Mind and Hourglass Environment – which now opens its doors annually to the National Garden Scheme.
Karen Hayday, director of Hourglass explains: “Our aim is to promote good mental and physical wellbeing through outdoor activity in a green environment with the allotment providing a safe and supportive haven for able-bodied individuals referred to us by Mind. We have about 20 volunteers a day referred to the project who come together to pool their skills and experience to design, build and tend this beautiful garden. Above all we have lots of fun while we work!”
The results speak for themselves. For many of the volunteers their mental and physical health has improved, and a number have returned to mainstream housing and regular employment.
For those involved they find that the project helps them to deal with their mental health issues and that the project is great for making new friends and meeting and talking to people. As one said: “I need to get out more and The Growth Project helps me. It helps with socialising with other people that come here. If I didn’t come here I would go completely mad, I’d have nothing to look forward to and I would have nobody to talk to.”
While another said: “The Growth Project is a sanctuary, it gives me the feeling of being wanted and valued.”
But to call The Growth Project an allotment hardly does justice to this award-winning haven. Judged ‘Outstanding’ for the last five years by the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ Award for North West In Bloom, and not a moment’s hesitation from the National Garden Scheme’s county team in including it in their prestigious portfolio, this is a place well worth exploring.
The standard, quality and selection of the organic produce grown from seed on the site is fit for any show bench and companion planting, used to ward off pests, creates a beautifully colourful display while benefitting wildlife too. There is a pond, insect hotel and a home for hedgehogs with plenty of fruit for both humans and birds, and wildflowers can be found in abundance.
“Nothing goes to waste,” says Karen. “All the vegetables grown on the site are organic and are taken home by the beneficiaries which means that they are kept in fresh fruit and veg for a large part of the year.”
There is also a stunning traditional straw house built by the volunteers and new orchard and wildflower meadow to explore.
“The project is a shining example of what the National Garden Scheme’s Gardens and Health campaign is about; championing gardens and gardening as a key component in improving mental and physical health,” says National Garden Scheme CEO, George Plumptre.
The Growth Project is open for the National Garden Scheme on August 10th – 11:30 – 16:00. There are home-made teas and refreshments served in the Victorian style ornate ‘Woodland Green’ woodworking station. Jams and cakes to buy. Admission: Adult: £3.50 – Child: Free.
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