Gardening as a form of therapy
Gardening is a therapy for all of us. That’s a bold statement, isn’t it? Research conducted by The Mental Health Foundation finds that people who display connectedness to nature, tend to be happier and find more meaning in life. The report states that:
“‘Connectedness’ is our individual way to feel emotionally connected to the natural world with nature. Connectedness goes beyond simply having contact with nature; the concept of connectedness encompasses how we feel, think and experience our relationship with the natural environment” (The Mental Health Foundation, 2021).
According to the research, connectedness to nature is different to simply passing through or visiting it, and it’s this that is key to developing a sense of meaning and purpose. It can be cultivated in a myriad of ways, whether that’s stopping to pause outdoors and notice the wildlife, observing insect activity or, my personal favourite, tuning in to the birds and realising just how many different songs they sing.
Touching, smelling, and feeling soil run through your fingers as you plant seedlings or even a spot of weeding are all ways we can get immersed in and connected to nature. Unfortunately, there is disparity across the UK and not everyone has access to high-quality nature spaces, with specific groups of people not having equal access to nature’s benefits. According to the same report, those groups include people living in urban areas, young adults, people living with disabilities and ethnic minorities to name but a few. Many of which could most benefit from the restorative qualities of access and connectedness to nature.
One of the wonderful things about gardening is how much it acts as a leveller between people. There is almost always a task or activity that anyone can be involved in, no matter their experience, background, or ability. And so, gardening can help people feel productive in a truly meaningful way. Engaging people to work together, to create something beautiful, is something we are especially proud of at Helmsley Walled Garden. It’s what sets us apart.
Our garden is solely maintained by our 100-strong group of volunteers, who are overseen and supported by our three garden-volunteer co-ordinators and a tiny handful of employed staff. Volunteers also look after our ticket-sales kiosk. Everyone is encouraged to contribute and try different activities. Engaging our volunteers to work together to create a beautiful space for our visitors, teaches them new skills and helps them to look at the world in a whole new way. For some of our volunteers, this is possibly one of the few places that they can feel included, productive, and needed. Every task undertaken has a direct impact on the garden. And of course, there are other important benefits for our volunteers, such as finding new friends, learning to work as part of a team, developing social skills and gaining a sense of community which is hugely beneficial for all of us.
We try never to make assumptions about anyone’s capacity to learn as we have come to realise how much humans enjoy being challenged. We demand high standards from all our volunteers – we use Latin names for plants and best horticultural practice in our approach. This sits front and centre of our ethos here at the Garden and it informs everything we do. We are a garden first, and a destination for many. Whether that’s local residents who enjoy taking a moment of calm and respite within our walls, a destination for tourists to North Yorkshire, or a horticultural space for keen gardeners looking for new ideas and inspiration. We are also a charity, working with and for our community – bringing people together to create a beautiful restorative space and changing lives for the better.
Helmsley Walled Garden is a registered charity. We provide therapeutic horticulture opportunities through the interaction of individuals with plants and gardening in a secure and supportive environment to enhance their own physical and mental health and wellbeing. Every purchase and donation goes to support our work. Why not consider becoming a Friend for Life? You’ll be helping and supporting us to develop and maintain the garden and our volunteering opportunities, and in return you will get unlimited, life-time access to Helmsley Walled Garden, regular news updates with our e-newsletter and 10% off plants from our Garden Shop & Plant Centre.
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