This week I’ve seen a couple of new stories that I thought readers of this blog might find interesting, the first from the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17857858 about some allotments in Coventry which appear to be threatened by the building of a new electric sub station. It reminded me of a great film I’d seen called “Grow Your Own” (Directed by Richard Laxton 2007) – at a simple level, the film tells the story of how faced with a mobile phone company who want to get rid of some plots to build a new phone mast, the people on the allotments grow together to create a more welcoming place, filled with friendship and community.
The second story I came across this week was about our local MP David Blunkett, who has recently become a patron for a gardening charity called Thrive. In an interview for the Thrive website David Blunkett talks about the therapeutic power of gardening: http://www.thrive.org.uk/david-blunkett-mp-thrive-patron.aspx Thrive is a small national charity, founded in 1978, that uses gardening to change the lives of disabled people.
In the interview, he explained how; “At school he was told to work in the garden as a punishment, a detention if you like. In defiance, he dug up the headmasters’ prized geraniums. “Gardens are positive, pleasurable and creative places,” he tells me. “To tell someone to go there as a punishment is quite wrong.”
He goes on, saying: “I learnt a lot about vegetable growing from my father, and that is what I like. I get pleasure from productive gardens, although my fruit trees planted about six years ago are not doing very well. … I enjoy growing herbs and we use them in our cooking, something I wouldn’t have done 10 or 15 years ago,” he jokes. “And the fruit we do get from our old plum tree goes into pies, we don’t make jam.
He adds: “….when I retire I do plan to spend more time in the garden – that’s not to say that will be any day soon though,”
David, who was born blind as a result of a rare genetic disorder, hopes to use his new role as Patron to help raise the profile of Thrive nationwide. “Thrive is filling a niche,” he says. “It is doing something that you would not automatically have thought about. People with disabilities want to be helped and supported and Thrive offers this practical help in a way that is sensitive to people’s needs. Thrive [and similar charities like them] helps with confidence, motor skills, socialisation and helps people come out rather than re-trench and go into their shell. Gardening can bring good mental health and help people avoid this feeling that life has ceased.”
David also supports Thrive in its belief that the National Health Service should harness the power of gardening. “When GPs start controlling their own budget they could easily say to some patients ‘why not give gardening a try’ and point them in the direction of a six week course of gardening, either with Thrive or at other projects in the UK. ….. It would help in so many ways. The money from the medication could be given to fund a garden project. This could offer a real opportunity for Thrive and other projects in the UK.”