During National Growing for Wellbeing Week we thought we would share the experiences of some of our patients who have found peace and comfort in our Martlets gardens.
National Growing for Wellbeing Week is a celebration of what ‘growing your own’ can do for your wellbeing. Studies have shown that gardening can reduce stress and improve mood, and help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. There’s also evidence that just looking at a green space and spending time in nature helps us to relax and de-stress.
Research into the benefits of gardens in healthcare settings indicates that these outdoor spaces boost wellbeing for all; they are restorative not only for patients, but for visitors and staff too.
What our patients have to say
“I have Alzheimer’s disease and Martlets’ garden has been a great place for me to find peace. Before the COVID pandemic my wife and I would visit for coffee mornings. I could wander around the garden doing what I liked, and I always felt safe and happy. It was good for me to walk around on my own and let go of things in my head. And to just enjoy the scents and the colours.”
— Ian, outpatient
“I’ve been an inpatient at Martlets’ for several weeks now as I have cancer. The staff have been wonderful and it’s so nice that the bedroom doors open on to the gardens. I do love gardens, and everything here is in full bloom. I’ve been able to sit outside and was able to walk around a bit until my condition started deteriorating.
I’ve taken lots of pictures of the flowers here as I’ve always enjoyed taking photos. Being able to see all the different plants and flowers at Martlets makes such a difference. Wisteria is one of my favourites and they have just moved me to a room that has lots of lovely wisteria growing just outside the doors. You can see how lovely it is in the photo I’ve taken.”
— Barbara, inpatient
Be more snail
“Gardening and nature really put you in the present moment. I have multiple sclerosis and I remember a particular experience at Martlets when I was visiting as an outpatient. I was out in the garden with Nicholas, the Martlets chaplain. He put a little baby snail on my hand which I was fascinated by. Slowly, but with determination, it was moving in and around my fingers and exploring my hand. There was a lesson it was teaching me – ‘I don’t have to move quickly. I can still get around and it doesn’t matter if I’m in a wheelchair or use sticks, I can still do it’.
It was such a big realisation at the time and has stayed with me. The understanding that by slowing down you can still get where you need to go is huge. And sometimes that helps you experience more along the way. Even for the inpatients who are ill and in bed, they can come out into the garden outside their rooms; they can experience being in the moment. Seeing things growing around you in nature is reassuring; you know that you too are part of the cycle of life.”
— Carmel, outpatient
Our gardening volunteers
Here at Martlets, we have a team of hard-working volunteers who look after our gardens.
“I have eight regular volunteers,” says John Hinchliffe, Martlets’ head gardener. “They are so happy to be back after the COVID lockdowns and their help is invaluable. For a while we couldn’t break the COVID ‘rule of six’, so we worked in two groups. But now we can all work together outside at the same time. The recent rain and warmer weather has meant the plants are thriving and that includes the weeds! So, there’s lots of weeding to be done. We also have a couple of local corporate groups booked in over the summer. They are local volunteers from companies in Brighton and Hove who offer to come along to help with the garden. We have had other business teams volunteer previously and they always enjoy getting involved. It’s a great team-building exercise for them and it helps us keep our garden looking good too.”
Earthworks and the Martlets allotment
Earthworks is a weekly space for bereaved men to get together and grow an abundance of vegetables, flowers and fruit. Sharing experiences of loss while working with the natural cycle of life, through the seasons, can be a healing experience.
Martlets took over plot 98 at the Weald allotments in 2019, to offer a space for therapeutic group bereavement support. The first Earthworks groups and volunteers laid the foundations for Plot 98. They prepared beds and paths, painted the cabin and fences, and dug the pond. They also got busy planting shrubs, raspberries, flower bulbs, vegetables and weeping cherry trees and an apple tree.
“Since my loss, life has been chaotic and stressful and this place gives me something to look forward to that is calm.”
— Earthworks volunteer
The allotment is a place where people can be nourished by the healing power of nature. It’s a space for contemplation and reflection. The past and the future have great sway on our thoughts, so there is an opportunity, when tending the plot, to cherish the present moment, and find respite when absorbed in the sights, smells and sounds of nature.