Day centre gardening projects

Friday, 30 June 2017 - 5:38pm

This is the first of our new ‘activities’ blogs from the National Day Centres Project, focused on gardens. 

Garden centre

Watford New Hope were loaned an unusually large open space, the Dellow Centre in London’s East End had just a concrete courtyard and a rooftop to play with and Springboard in Harrogate have a small day centre so chose to make the most of their front garden.

Watford New Hope Community Market Garden by Ian Bond

The Community Market Garden is a unique space of one acre backing onto residential houses, one of which houses New Hope residents recovering from addiction.  The garden is divided into different spaces including vegetable growing beds, poly-tunnels, a workshop, hencoop, a Mongolian yurt and a fire pit set in a wooded area.  We aim to create a nurturing environment where service users can benefit from fresh air and exercise, explore their creative expression, practice helpful life skills and benefit from the therapeutic effects of working with plants and animals.

The project uses a coaching approach, allowing service users to create their own programme with staff support. This might be learning how to grow vegetables and cook with them, taking part in poetry sessions, developing creative writing skills through poetry workshops and carpentry. We also offer many art-based activities, music sessions, and work-skill courses such as bricklaying, budgeting and other life skills, through partnerships with Watford Women’s Centre, Groundworks and SMILE.

Two full-time members of staff and eight volunteers support about 70 individuals each year. 

The garden receives funding from a variety of sources, ranging from local residents, to national grant-making bodies and corporate sponsorship.

We believe that when people are encouraged to explore their creative potential a precious seed is planted and no-one can tell what might follow from that. This is a place where both plants and people truly grow.

Providence Row’s Green Dream by Nicola Robson

Five years ago, we had a roof and a concrete yard. They weren’t pretty and were only used by staff looking for a break and some fresh air.

Since 2012, our community of staff, volunteers and people using the services at Providence Row, with financial and volunteer support from local companies and trusts, have been working together to create beautiful spaces for people to relax, work and train in.

Now we have a green and floral courtyard garden and a flourishing roof garden, which not only grows fruit and veg, but is also the site of an accredited gardening training scheme and a regular therapeutic gardening group for people affected by homelessness.

Every Thursday morning, Gardening Coordinator Julie supervises a class of eight trainees who are taking part in the scheme this summer. Each week they learn new skills and build their confidence as they work towards their certificate in Horticulture. Downstairs in Providence Row’s centre Asia and Annette provide one-to-one and group sessions supporting trainees as they search and apply for work. After the sessions, everyone has lunch together, using produce from the roof.

Find out more about Providence Row’s trainee schemes at 

Springboard Garden – Harrogate Homeless Project by Liz Hancock

While our day centre building is small, we are very fortunate to have a garden space – this is a unique, sheltered area. The service users designed the space themselves, requesting a rose garden as a memorial to past friends and they enjoy reflecting, away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. 

When we first moved into the building in 2009, the garden was totally derelict and overgrown, just mounds of turf, so over the years we’ve totally re-vamped it.  We initially got a grant of £700 and set up a gardening group. We bought wellies and boots of different sizes, basic equipment and materials and for about a year we were producing garden planters out of old pallets, a few of which sold to the public. 

Now that it’s established, the garden is maintained by service users – initially this was in a structured group, but now on a much more casual basis. They decide between themselves what we need – it’s mostly just bedding plants as the shrubbery is well established. 

Service users take great pride in maintaining the garden and we have been successful every year at the Harrogate in Bloom Awards for Communal Gardens. One of our most hard working volunteers, Derek, received help from the Project a few years ago and now works tirelessly to make our garden beautiful.

The garden generates an interest in the outdoors and tending plants. Some of our most challenging clients have taken an interest in gardening; I love to observe them working in solitude and enjoying tending and watering the plants. Its therapeutic benefits are immeasurable.

This week I heard one client comment “this is a lovely thing to do, it makes me feel like a normal person”.

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Vicky Album

Vicky Album

Innovation and good practice project manager

Vicky is an Innovation and Good Practice Project Manager working on London PLUS and the Strengths-Based Toolkit

Telephone: 020 7840 4423
Twitter: @HLDayCentres