Englefield’s community gardeners have joined a new initiative championing the role gardening and horticulture plays in our health and wellbeing.
The Five A Day market garden is one of several organisations making up the Reading Gardening for Health and Wellbeing Network which launched this September at the Ridgeline Trust Therapeutic Garden in Reading.
In 2018/19, at least 3,800 people benefited from more than 6,600 gardening sessions held by the network’s member organisations, made possible by 16,300 hours of volunteer time.
The network is a collaboration of community gardens and horticultural therapy groups in the Greater Reading area. Supported by trained horticulturalists, the groups welcome people with a range of needs such as physical and mental health challenges, learning disabilities and autism, as well as being for likeminded gardeners keen to be part of a community.
The network provides a “one stop shop” for healthcare professionals involved with social prescribing, which aims to link people with certain health conditions with social groups which could support their recovery and wellbeing.
Located in the village of Englefield and supported by the Englefield Estate, the Five A Day Market Garden involves a team of around 25 volunteers who maintain the garden and run community education and social enterprise projects.
Wendy Tobitt, Chair of Five a Day committee, said: “Several people who volunteer with us are recovering from depression or bereavement. They enjoy gardening with likeminded people and always look forward to their time at Five a Day because it’s good to be doing practical activities like growing flowers and vegetables.
“Employees from Sage who give their time to Five a Day are surprised when they find weeding de-stresses them and their comments include; ‘it’s so therapeutic’ and ‘I didn’t expect to feel really chilled’.”
The network’s other member organisations include Food4Families, Thrive, the Friendly Gardeners Group, Nature Nurture, Lavender Place Community Garden, Green Health Thames Valley, The Conservation Volunteers, the Museum of English Rural Life, Autangel Allotment Group, and the Ridgeline Trust.
Christina Hughes Nind, network coordinator, added: “It seems that there is new research out every week showing that gardening is good for our bodies and our minds and makes us feel better.”