The Alchemist -Part 2

Life on the Outside — Gardening!

Over the past few weeks, along with going back and forth along the M5, I have been privileged to meet coordinators and volunteers involved with some great initiatives in our communities. So before I continue, I must thank Chris Parsons of the LandWorks project in Dartington and also Marie and Guy Wellings of the Nuneaton Transition Garden for their inspiration and very welcome, sage’ advice.

Whilst the LandWorks project provides training and skills for resettling prisoners by gaining working experience and skills training in horticulture and landscape gardening, Nuneaton Transition Garden focuses mainly on community inclusion, inviting anyone who expresses a wish to join them in their pursuit of peaceful gardening.

The benefits of gardening are very well documented. Building physical and mental well being whilst developing skills are only a tiny part of the whole. For a prisoner, just being outside and able to dig some earth is a real bonus! And for anyone who has experienced prison, fresh air has become somewhat of a commodity in the newly built establishments with trickle vents, restricting any level of fresh air coming into a cell.

It is no coincidence then, that prison establishments have encouraged the value of gardening. In 2000, prisoners from HMP Leyhill won a prestigious gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. The garden was called “Time — The Healer”. The story of this horticultural success was subsequently made into a film called Greenfingers staring Helen Mirren and Clive Owen. This success has been followed by many prison gardening teams exhibiting formally at UK garden shows.

Every year, prisons in the UK compete for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Windlesham Trophy. Successful winners in our region have been; HMP Whatton (2012) HMP Foston Hall (2010) and HMP Sudbury (2007). On a personal level, as I’ve got older, looking at nature and the mechanics of growing, this led me to develop my own project. Whilst in the latter years of my sentence, my project — namely the ‘acorn in a pot’ was started and I obsessively watched and nurtured it in my cell into what I can only describe as a little oak tree. Never had I grown anything before, but the satisfaction I got from planting the acorn and watching it develop echoes the benefits anyone can garner from horticulture.

Crossroads Trust EARTH project is inspired by the amazing work of LandWorks, and is developed, sharing the beliefs of the Nuneaton Transition Garden, in the rehabilitative and restorative impact that gardening can have. Now we have our patch of land in Atherstone, we have started work. I will keep this blog updated with our progress in doing battle with the weeds and growing the potential of both ourselves and our brassicas! Monty Con?!!!

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