A new support group at Walworth Garden is helping to combat loneliness and isolation during the third national lockdown, writes Blathnaid Corless…
‘Growing to Grow’ is an eight-week social and therapeutic horticulture programme offering gardening sessions for anyone struggling during the pandemic.
Revised government guidelines mean up to fifteen people can now meet up as part of a formal support group.
Oli Haten, Walworth Garden’s CEO and head gardener, said: “If there’s one thing we’ve noticed in this third lockdown, it’s that people are no longer afraid to admit that they feel isolated or lonely.
“The basis of our programme comes from the belief in the concept that occupation is good for you, and that communion with the soil is good for you.”
Mr Haten also spoke of the safety measures in place to ensure the programme runs smoothly. “We enforce mask wearing and social distancing, and we have a one-way system around the garden centre,” he explained.
“After the success of our first eight-week programme, we now have a waiting list and are looking to expand.
“We want to try and reach as many people as possible, but we need more funding to do that.”
Horticulturalist Tracy Browne, who runs therapy classes at Walworth Garden, said: “I think the best part of the programme is that we provide a safe space for people to talk about the stress of lockdown, while meeting new people. Some people we teach already have gardens, and others discover skills they didn’t even know they had. In the last group I taught, there were two women from Southwark who lived in the same flat block and had never met, and they became friends.”
Walworth Garden is open seven days a week.
Visit walworthgarden.org.uk for more information.