One Year at Our Community Garden Project

Gardening is a well-known activity for supporting one’s mental health. From reducing stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety to keeping us active and connected with nature. We're celebrating our one year anniversary and would love to share the story of our journey so far, with you.

Last year keen amateur gardener Julie Abell bumped into Matt and Andy, two local firefighters. The Fire Station’s hopes to connect with the community and provide a wellbeing space for staff to relax at the end of a long shift, coupled with Julie’s love for horticulture and expertise created a new idea. They would form a community wellbeing garden.

The garden would be an accessible space for anyone in the community to take some time out, relax, get stuck into a new venture and engage with others.

Not long after, Pepper’s- A Safe Place was invited to take part in sessions. A team of our members, together with Oakham firefighters, have worked to transform the outdoor space, to create a relaxing hub for all.

Station Manager Greg Ayres, said, “The outside of the station looked tired and the grounds loosely maintained. But now, the Firefighters use the garden on a daily basis, in their down time, to relax. Being involved with the Community Wellbeing Garden has given the firefighters a positive focus away from the stresses of work.”

Sowing seeds, planting flowers and weeding are just the basics. The team have added a water feature, now a hotspot for birds; a boat overflowing with flowers, providing a welcoming seating area to passers-by and a relaxing sensory border around the patio.

Julie said, “It has been such a privilege to watch the guys at Pepper’s and the crew at the Fire Station transform this space and make it their own wellbeing hub. It’s been a great community effort and now a space that we are all so proud of.”

We have been well supported by locals with various donations from villagers, the boat from Anglian Water, plants from local garden centres, planters made by Men and Ladies in Sheds (Age UK) and locals willing to share their extensive knowledge and skills.

We have been able to run art workshops, learn about the benefits of herbs with a local herbalist, grow a wealth of knowledge on supporting biodiversity in our gardens, engage with new members of the community and so much more.

Last week our members took part in a BBQ, a well-earned celebration for the first anniversary of the project. Enjoying salads grown ourselves, we were able to reflect on the past year. Many members have developed a love for gardening and gained a great new skill and hobby. Some have seen grand ideas come to fruition and helped plan their own little oasis within the grounds. Others have grown in confidence and made lasting friendships.

We have loved being a part of this project and we have truly seen the huge mental health benefits that gardening can provide. Members are able to come and relax, escape and connect with others.

Many NHS practices are now prescribing gardening to patients and we can see why. It is known to help alleviate stress, to ease several symptoms of mental illnesses, to keep us active, to increase our ability to engage and concentrate on tasks and it gives us something to feel proud of.

The Community Garden has grown over the past year and we hope it will continue to expand. Local groups are welcome to use the space for their own sessions or you can join in with our sessions at Pepper’s, every other Tuesday at 12:30. Take some time out, relax and look after your mind.

Julie said, “the garden is a safe space for anyone in the community and we would love to welcome more locals.”

To find out more follow us on social media @peppers.asafeplace or send us an email.