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Community effort set to bloom at Chelsea Flower Show




A community allotment and orchard project working to boost mental health is preparing a garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year.

The garden is being prepared at the ESCAPE Community Allotment in Swaffham where volunteers with mental health issues can learn garden and horticultural skills.

The ESCAPE project is involved with creating the garden to mark the 150th anniversary of the charity Family Action and the 100th anniversary of green service provider idverde.

Chartered landscape architect Alistair Bayford has designed the garden, which aims to highlight the pressures faced by families including wellbeing and financial issues.

Project work from left to right are Bob Lever, Karen Beck, Sarah Smith
Project work from left to right are Bob Lever, Karen Beck, Sarah Smith

Known as the Family Monsters Garden, the design allows people to reflect and gain perspective.

Mr Bayford, of idverde, said: “It’s a garden with national appeal.

“On face value, it just looks like a garden, but it has layers of detail that represent the problems and struggles that affect people in the UK today.”

A coachload of 40 volunteers and staff from the ESCAPE allotment will be travelling to see the garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.

From left to right at the front are Katy Fullilove, Alistair Bayford, Karen Beck with others involved in the project behind them
From left to right at the front are Katy Fullilove, Alistair Bayford, Karen Beck with others involved in the project behind them

One volunteer involved with the project, Sarah Smith, said the allotment has been vital for her well-being.

“Basically I have anxiety and depression so I love coming here for the friendships in a comfortable environment,” she said.

“I live on my own so I do not like being at home by myself thinking about things I do not want to think about.

“It’s my purpose and focus to come here as there is always something happening.

“The flower show will be amazing and it’s something I have always wanted to go to.”

Sarah has been going to the allotment since 2013 and has attained her horticulture diploma.

Volunteer Sarah Smith working on the project
Volunteer Sarah Smith working on the project

And on Thursdays through the project, she has been helping to support young people with mental health issues.

Another volunteer, Terry Barber, has been attending the allotment project at Tumbler Hill since September, 2015.

He said: “I do a little bit of everything here.

“I help with the planting and putting seeds in the pots, I do cuttings and watering. It’s lovely planting things and seeing them develop.”

Between 60 to 80 people participate each week with Family Action’s ESCAPE project, which is open to people in and around Swaffham.

The project works closely with local services such as GPs, schools and mental health services who refer people to Family Action for specialist support.

A path running through the group’s Chelsea Flower Show garden will take people past boulders of varying shapes and sizes, representing the pressures families face.

It culminates in a central area with a bench large enough to bring a family together, and a clear water pool for reflection.

Katy Fullilove, the leader of ESCAPE, said: “It’s about people supporting each other instead of the traditional medical models with ESCAPE people coming from a diverse range of backgrounds.

“The belief at the core is accepting people for who they are.”

Deborah Root, left, and Katy Fullilove with some of the plants for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019
Deborah Root, left, and Katy Fullilove with some of the plants for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

She added that a group will be going to the Chelsea Flower Show on Wednesday, May 22.

“It’s amazing and everyone is really excited,” she said.

“A big group of us will be going, so there is quite a buzz in the air.

“We are very lucky to have 40 tickets for the show”.



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