One of a kind therapeutic garden

17th December 2020

Gardens can be great for the environment and for wildlife, however they’re also good for people too. The Tullie House Secret Garden in Carlisle is an accessible, wildlife friendly, walled garden established in 2018.

£3,855 from the Abbeyfield Carlisle Society Over 55 Fund, CN Fund and Cumberland Building Society Charitable Foundation brought more than 150 people who needed support with their physical and emotional needs into this garden sanctuary.

Amanda Smalley, Head of Collections, said: “After creating such a wonderful, safe and unique space, we’re delighted to have had the opportunity to enable the wider community to use and enjoy the space. Thanks to this grant, we recruited a talented gardener, Louise, who developed a programme of activities to allow other groups to use the space and also offer a successful dementia friendly gardening club.

“Over 80 people took part in the dementia friendly gardening club. Louise worked with a regular group who were able to take on the duties of maintaining the garden over the summer. Although some people living with dementia may not have the ability to remember all of the day-to-day activities they take part in, what they do retain is an emotional memory. Everything involved with gardening engages all of the senses so when the participants have been able to touch, smell, see, feel and hear the nature around them, they have access to familiar memories which can be extremely freeing.”

The sessions have enabled people to exercise by taking part in gardening tasks and the social aspect of the gardening clubs has improved people’s emotional wellbeing.

Amanda continued: “The project also successfully engaged with vulnerable adults, particularly those who are out of work and living with mental health conditions. The garden served as a sanctuary, where they could use the outdoor environment and the gardening tasks as a therapeutic tool for restoring the mind.”

Also on offer at the Secret Garden is a drop-in gardening club and the Family Gardening Club, which hosted a picnic for a group of Syrian refugee families. The garden provides a safe and therapeutic space; many visitors to the secret garden don’t have access to their own safe outdoor space.

The garden provides one off and longer-term volunteering opportunities. One volunteer said: “The first time I set eyes on the garden, it immediately felt like a special place. The garden has been well-tended this last 12 months and is steadily improving. I understand that there is a good demand from community groups to use it.”

Amanda concluded: “We hope to establish bespoke outreach sessions to integrate Louise’s work into the wider community and we look forward to making up for the time we’ve lost this year and bringing people together again in this lovely space.”