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Horticultural Therapy



Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (shortened to Horticultural Therapy or simply STH) is the process of using gardening to facilitate individuals development at vulnerable stages in their lives, which includes those with physical disabilities, learning difficulties, mental health problems, social isolation and long term unemployed.

Through carefully structured programmes we aim to:

  • Provide the work experience, skills and practical qualifications that can lead to permanent employment.
  • Bring individuals who are alienated – for whatever reason – back into a caring and sustaining community.
  • Help rehabilitate individuals by building confidence and social skills.
  • Restore strength, self-confidence and mobility after illness, trauma or accident.
  • Provide a peaceful, restorative haven for those recovering from illness and for those whose illness is terminal.

Our supported volunteers learn basic horticultural skills, conducted in small groups in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Occasionally, there is a need to provide 1:1 support, though ultimately we look towards helping people work together, encouraging social interaction.

  • Our ethos is one of acceptance and support of those less advantaged. To these ends we have:
  • Established management structures and protection policies sympathetic to the needs of vulnerable people with a range disabilities, be they physical, emotional, psychological or social.
  • Secured the continued success of all these activities by creating a sustainable, not for profit business with visitor numbers in excess of 10,000 people per annum, thus making a considerable contribution to the local economy.
  • Employed permanent staff members, who are highly committed to providing a safe, caring, welcoming and non-judgemental working environment with continuing staff training and professional development.
  • Become involved in the care and re-employment of offenders.
  • Liaise with local schools involved in Special Needs and mainstream provision; they use the garden for activities related to the National Curriculum.
  • Built up a thriving network of volunteers, who engage in a wide range of gardening related tasks and activities and participate in an equally wide range of social events within the garden, which consolidate a sense of community and belonging.

Helmsley Walled Garden is a Registered Charity. It is a safe environment, on level ground, making it suitable for wheelchair users. We already cater for people with a wide variety of conditions and liaise with appropriate professionals.

We are offering a range of workshops, covering basic horticultural skills which are conducted as an integrated part of the garden’s needs and requirements and not in isolation.

Horticultural therapy has been proven in research by Thrive, see, to have many health benefits including:

  • Physical exercise – a chance to work in the open air
  • Learning new skills – for life and work opportunities
  • Meeting new people and working within a team
  • Increased independence and self esteem


Sessions are run weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday

Timings are flexible and negotiable


Our Horticultural Therapists:

Fiona Horsley spent 27 years in mainstream teaching, spending much of that time with special needs children. Leaving full-time teaching in 2003, she went on to gain certificates in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture and City and Guilds in Gardening at Askham Bryan College. She is also a member of the Institute for Learning. She started volunteering at Hemsley Walled Garden in 2005 and began working there 6 years ago, specifically with special needs students from Welburn Hall School.

Heather Thomas BSc has a City and Guilds qualification in Horticulture gained at Harlow Carr Gardens and more recently a Foundation Degree in Garden Design. She has extensive experience of working with adults with learning disabilities in both an Occupational Therapy setting (NHS) and craft workshops in a local Camphill Community. She has a Certificate in Counselling(2001) and a PTLLS teaching qualification (Dec 2012). She has been working at Helmsley Walled Garden since 2008.

Helmsley Walled Garden is a registered charity and social enterprise. Our charitable aims are the provision of social and therapeutic horticulture, the restoration of our historic walled garden and the promotion of gardening. As a social enterprise we operate as a business, we charge an entrance fee, sell plants, produce and goods. The income generated is then used to fulfil our charitable aims. We are a non-profit making organisation, and we do rely on generous donations from individuals to allow us to provide social and therapeutic horticulture. Some of our STH projects have been made possible through grant funding.


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