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A new gardening project is sprouting up in Hereford, to help put people with mental illness on the road to recovery.

Oak House is an inpatient recovery centre for working age adults with a history of mental health problems.

For a number of years the grounds have been underused, so staff and service users have worked with volunteers and local businesses to landscape the patch and bring it back to life for growing plants and vegetables.

Ward Manager Hayley Sawney explained: “Earlier this year we met some volunteers who were part of a ‘green care’ scheme, so they shared an interest in using horticulture as a way to improve and support recovery.

“We were keen to pool our resources and develop the underused garden area into a therapeutic green space.

“The whole project has benefitted our service users. It brings people together, cuts across boundaries and uses individual skills. It also demonstrates how, if you undertake tasks in stages, you can achieve your goals – as in recovering from mental illness.

“The project is also a great opportunity to involve the community – raising awareness of mental health and reducing stigma.”

Funding for the project has been obtained through ²gether NHS Foundation Trust’s Charitable Funds committee, and local businesses DB Garden Sales, Wyevale Garden Centre and Radbourne’s have provided equipment, time and expertise to get the project off the ground.

Hayley said: “We’ve had soil from Radbourne’s, bulbs and plants from Wyevale and wood, an arbour, planters, tools and labour from DB Garden Sales. We’re extremely grateful for their support – they have been marvellous.

“Eventually we will use the garden to grow produce, which our service users will then cook and eat so we will be promoting healthy eating as well. We can’t wait to see the garden develop during the coming months and years.”

The garden was officially opened today by ²gether’s Chair Ruth FitzJohn, who said: “Sometimes it all comes ²gether: volunteering, inclusion, the community getting together, a healthy activity and a beautiful outcome. It is such a pleasure to join the “owners” of the garden at Oak House for this joyful and affirming launch of the volunteer garden project.”