As the lockdown continues and still only Tony and myself in the garden it can sometimes seem a bit of a mammoth task to keep on top of these five acres.
Fortunately for us the incredible work done by the whole team before lockdown means that great swathes of the garden continue to look marvellous. The apple blossom has been superb, the irises planted only last year are blooming beautifully and the laburnum arch is just about to burst into flower.
Meanwhile, Tony is keeping the grass looking good and working on sharpening up the edges of all the lawns, no small task. I’m concentrating on getting all the remaining plants in the ground before lifting all the tulips round the Dipping Pond and replacing them with the dahlias that Tricia lifted, cleaned and stored so carefully last autumn.
Mammoth-size task aside, I can’t think of a better place to be right now than outside, turning the earth over, sowing seeds and watching things grow. These are difficult and stressful times for all of us and it is heartening to see how many of us have turned to our gardens. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) says searches on its website on how to make compost have gone up 500% whilst an initiative to share vegetable seedlings on the Isle of Wight (Green island Veg Economy or GIVE) has had 5,000 people sign up to it.
So plenty of people are saying they are benefiting but are we really? Well I’m happy to say yes we are. There is a growing body of research-based evidence showing how everyone benefits from being outdoors. Visiting a beautiful green space for a few hours is beneficial. Getting outside and getting your hands dirty is even better.
One of my real inspirations, the Nacadia Garden in Denmark undertook a study in 2013 to measure the benefits of working in a garden for people who were currently off work with a stress-related illness. They found that participants experienced similar gains from 10 weeks of gardening as those who had had ten weeks of talking therapy.
Here at the garden we see the benefits of regular gardening for all of us. Being outdoors and part of a team, working with plants where the timescale is weeks and months, not hours or days leads people away from the stresses of modern life. Some of our volunteers have been involved with the garden since its very inception over 20 years ago.
Our ‘Over the Garden Gate’ initiative, partially funded towards the end of last year by Awards for All is our way of ensuring all our volunteers can benefit from their involvement with the garden, irrespective of age or ability. The approach is simple, pairing our volunteers up to help each other get the most out of their time in the garden. Support might be instructive around certain activities, physical, giving a hand to haul out a stubborn weed, or emotional – just someone that you know is there if you need them.
Our volunteers look after the garden every month of the year and, of course, we are entirely dependent on our visitor income to do this. To help us survive this year, unable to currently open to the public, we have launched an appeal, #oursecretgarden – you can donate on our website or at https://localgiving.org/appeal/hwgsecretgarden.
For £25 you can adopt a square metre of the garden and enable us to continue not only to maintain the garden but also to support the volunteers who benefit so much from this beautiful space.
June Tainsh, Garden Manager at Helmsley Walled Garden June 2020