The opportunity to physically connect with nature, to manually work with soil and sow and grow plants is rarely on the agenda for students at university. The indoor environments of academia do not usually lend themselves to going down the allotment for a couple of hours. Fresh air and the glow of healthy exercise when digging in manure is not, for students, generally where you would connect them to. Perhaps a work out at the gym, some yoga, a Pilates class is what provides the physical challenge. Certainly not a session of digging.
That is unless you happen to be a student at the University of East Anglia.
Silent Space continues to grow in ways I could never have imagined when I first approached a couple of head gardeners with the idea in 2016. It’s too early to share details of the exciting developments that lie ahead in 2019, but here’s a quick update on some of last year’s happenings.
During 2018, the steady trickle of gardens signing up to the project continued. Dedicating an area for silent visiting is proving to be particularly popular in these chaotic times. There’s nothing quite like the soothing sights and sounds of nature for taking us beyond the latest ‘shouty’ news headlines.
Thank you to Eden on Prescription for allowing us to link to the information about the social prescribing projects going on at the Eden Project. Always exciting when a good idea becomes reality. Even more so when it's evident that it's making a difference.
With ongoing pressures on our health and social care systems, now is the time to recognise the powerful contribution the arts can make to our health and wellbeing. Rachel Massey, Arts & Wellbeing Coordinator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, explains more.
Wellbeing is something that affects us all, and thanks to an influx of self-help guides, courses and retreats on offer, wellbeing has become a bit of a buzzword! The hype is justified. Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem; obesity levels are on the rise; and social isolation affects many, our ageing population in particular. The time has come to recognise how important it is to look after our mental and physical health.
Our lives are hectic and we often find it difficult to truly relax. As well-documented research demonstrates, time spent in nature can be very helpful. But could it be even more effective if we enjoyed it in silence? If, instead of allowing ourselves to be distracted, we made time to listen to the birds and the sounds of the breeze in the trees?
Thrive is the UK’s leading social & therapeutic horticulture charity.
Social and therapeutic horticulture is the process of using plants and gardens to improve physical and mental health, as well as communication and thinking skills. It also uses the garden as a safe and secure place to develop someone's ability to mix socially, make friends and learn practical skills that will help them to be more independent.
Using gardening tasks and the garden itself, Thrive horticultural therapists build a set of activities for each gardener to improve their particular health needs, and to work on certain goals they want to achieve.
The benefits of a sustained and active interest in gardening include:
• Better physical health through exercise and learning how to use or strengthen muscles to improve mobility
• Improved mental health through a sense of purpose and achievement
• The opportunity to connect with others – reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion
• Acquiring new skills to improve the chances of finding employment
• Just feeling better for being outside, in touch with nature and in the 'great outdoors'
Our London base is in the beautiful Battersea Park in South London. We maintain four gardens in Battersea Park where we run our therapeutic gardening sessions. Our sessions run from Monday – Friday from 10am – 3pm, structured like a working day. If you or someone you know could benefit from one of our programmes or you would like to know more, please call Ellen Hill on: 0207 720 2212
The Lambeth GP Food Co-operative has launched a video (part funded by NHS England) featuring its work and describing its vision.
As Dr Vikesh Sharma, a GP at the Grantham Practice in Stockwell, points out in the co-operative's latest newsletter, despite the project's success, prescribing gardening is still a novel idea to many patients. The challenge for a GP practice is 'to normalise the concept'. 'People come to GP surgeries and expect to be referred down certain pathways and it requires a change of mindset to consider the gardening club a viable option.' As the video demonstrates, this change is already beginning to take place.
The Sensing Nature website has been launched. It will keep us up to date with the two-year ESRC funded project started in November 2016 by Dr Sarah Bell. Focussing on individuals living with visual impairment, the project will explore the sensory and emotional experiences we have in nature.
In a recent blog, Dr Bell draws attention to the work of Karis Petty, an anthropologist at the University of Sussex who was taught to 'echolate' by a participant in a research project she was running. Dr Bell suggests that 'echolocation' is an activity we could all try whenever we are quiet in nature. Rather than listening with our ears we can begin to 'listen' with our whole being.
Royal Horticultural Society reports on the John MacLeod Lecture 2016.
A leading academic has argued that gardening is uniquely placed to help bridge the widening gap between modern, urban lives and the natural world, during the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) annual John MacLeod Lecture on 10 November.
Dr Ross Cameron, a Senior Lecturer in Landscape Management, Ecology & Design at the Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield, believes that as urban populations increase, city dwellers are missing out on the emotional, physiological, and psychological benefits of engaging with the natural world, benefits that humans are hard-wired to respond to. He argued that this lack of connection contributes to a condition he calls Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD).
Lambeth GP Food Co-operative celebrated its 3rd anniversary this year. A party at Lambeth Walk Surgery, together with a brain-scrambling quiz and a magnificent birthday cake, marked the event in style.
According to Project Director, Ed Rosen, the idea behind the project is really simple: ‘ to build life affirming gardens in every one of Lambeth’s GP surgeries.’
Retired nurse and Group Leader, Hilda Castillo-Binger, took ten minutes from hosting the party to show a LGHN representative around the Lambeth site. The paved area that runs alongside the surgery is filled with an impressive array of fruit, vegetables and herbs. They’re grown in raised beds and every imaginable form of container. Half empty compost bags seem to make particularly efficient, deep pots.
Gardeners already know the answer to the question posed by BBC News, but it's heartening to see the link between horticulture and health being discussed so thoroughly in the media.
David Buck, Senior Fellow at The King's Fund, discusses the 'Gardens and Health' report in his recent King's Fund blog.
At Holt Wood we are working towards sustainable cultivation and harvest of medicinal trees and shrubs. Our project is based on a two acre site in North Devon, UK which was previously a conifer plantation.
A stroll in the park could be the best way for urban dwellers to banish negative thoughts. A New York Times blog reports on research at Stanford University into the psychological effects of urban living.
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