A growing body of evidence confirms the benefits of gardening for our health and well-being. GPs often include gardening when socially prescribing as it’s such a great physical and emotional activity.
Before the Coronavirus pandemic, our weekly Community Allotment sessions at our allotment on Terrace Road offered people dealing with mental health issues, including anxiety and isolation, an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and join in a group project. The lockdown restrictions, however, meant we had to change the way our meet-ups worked.
A vital part of community projects like this is the social aspect of sharing a cup of tea or coffee and having a chat. This, sadly, was the very first thing to stop. Instead we now have twice weekly Zoom calls for all our members. Initially this was a challenge, and for many of us was out of our comfort zones, but now, every Tuesday, we watch a short Pots & Trowels YouTube video and have an informal chat. On Fridays, we have fun playing bingo or a quiz. This has really helped to maintain the social connections and has been great for us to get to know each other in a different way.
A recent survey by Capital Growth has found that 70% of community gardens have found a way to function, although in a limited capacity, and continue supporting their volunteers. At our Community Allotment, we’ve limited visits to two people per day on site, enabling us to comply with social distancing. We’ve provided everyone with their own gloves, and we don’t allow tools to be shared. Despite the restrictions, it has been a special time as I’ve been able to spend quality one-to-one time with the volunteers.
What next? We are planning commemorative projects and will be asking everyone to paint a ceramic piece at home which can be hung at the allotment. It will be a great way for us to remember these unusual times once we are all back together at the Community Allotment again.