Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Herb Garden in Battersea Park which was created by the gardening charity Thrive in 2002 from a derelict space. It is divided into different sections based on the uses of the plants including areas for both men’s and women’s health, plants which yield natural dyes and a huge variety of other herbs used for other ailments. February might not be a great time to see gardens at their best but it was great to hear the history of the space and how it is being used today to provide therapeutic gardening activities for local people. Thrive run variety of programmes across four gardens in the park working to support a number of different client groups including unemployed disabled adults, stroke survivors and people suffering from a mental health condition. Their activities not only teach people new horticultural skills but also provide a supportive opportunity where people can experience the positive effects that nature can have on their health and wellbeing.
Over the last few years there has been a renewed interest and respect for the restorative effect that plants can have on people so it’s always nice to recognise and celebrate organisations who have been putting this into practice for a long time! In urban places like London it’s a luxury to have your own garden so the importance of these public spaces where people have the chance to garden and get their hands dirty is really important. Studies have proven that being in a forest or walking through a park can have a calming effect on our mind, but that the impact can be even more profound when people are actively involved in planting and gardening activities. There is currently some interesting research being carried out looking at soil microbes and the effects that they have on the brain. The research is looking at how soil microbes can have a similar effect to antidepressants without the side effects. It’s great to see that GP referrals to gardening projects are becoming more popular and wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people were given an option to choose soil over Prozac!