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Gardening Week: Green spaces change lives

Gardens, green spaces and community growing projects change lives. Fact.

Today is the start of Gardening Week. So we’re going to show a little love to just some of the projects within the Gardens of Sanctuary network.

Growing Solidarity in Reading works with people seeking sanctuary to exchange skills, share knowledge, combat social isolation and build resilience.

“It is beautiful to see the ways that nature supports people to connect to themselves, each other and the natural world” they explain.

“Some of the most moving moments have been around sensory experiences, people being reminded of their home when catching the smell of forest leaf mulch, or the sound of a tractor engine.

One of our visitors brought some seeds, carefully wrapped in tissue. The seeds were dark black, irregularly square and a matt texture like no seeds I’d seen before.

They grew into these fantastic delicious wild cucumbers with prickly skin and a really dense sweetness. Our visitor helped us save the seeds so fingers crossed for this year too!”

Barefoot Kitchen in Middlesbrough have a Garden of Sanctuary award for their project which brings people from all walks of life together, many of whom are from refugee backgrounds.

They grow, harvest and cook food together, spending time in nature and with each other.

“We see that it benefits people’s mental and physical health, but it also provides peace, calm and visible signs of moving forward” they explain.

“The best moments are those where we can stand back and see connections between people that are independent of our input. Two guys who were strangers getting the bus home together, one chap fixing another’s bike, or people sharing seeds or plants. Those snapshots show that people are starting to build networks of support that have the resilience to see them through for the long term.

We have a lot of conversations around food. Some of these are related to growing – what was grown at home and how it was used, what can be substituted from our UK stores – and some to cooking – favourite recipes and the occasions they represent. We learn as much as we teach – Akhtar’s bitter melons and Kalsum’s radishes.

Green spaces can sometimes feel unwelcoming. Gates, locks and signage, high fences, unfamiliar faces that can be territorial and defensive. We wanted to make it really visible that our growing sites are places where people are welcomed, where their experience and knowledge is valued, and where they will be met with a community that wants to make friends. We want them to feel able to walk into that space with excitement at what lies beyond!”

This phenomenal projects celebrate both our shared humanity and our shared natural world. Bravo!

Any green space working with people seeking sanctuary can apply for the Gardens of Sanctuary award. Find out by clicking here.