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Twyford project aiming to boost mental health set to start this spring

A new communal allotment project which aims to boost mental health through gardening is set to get underway this spring.

The Green Prescription scheme, will see Twyford Parish Council join forces with Age UK Berkshire, Involve Community Services and Twyford Surgery to provide weekly gardening and growing sessions at the allotments on Hurst Road.

The initiative was set up with the intention of increasing ‘green prescriptions’ or non-medicinal healing, through individuals growing their own fruit and vegetable with a group of like-minded people.

The sessions, which are set to run every from 10.30am to 12.30pm every Thursday from spring until October, depending on COVID-19 restrictions, will be led horticultural therapist Christina Hughes Nind.

Christina’s aim is to give a boost to the mood and general wellbeing of people with low to mid-level anxiety and depression that ‘gardening is known to bring’.

Each week, she will also be assisted by Natalie Burton who is experienced in working with groups and also has her own plot at the Hurst Road site.

Twyford parish councillor Rohana Abeywardana, who is leading the initiative, has assembled a team for the project, including volunteers who have plots at the site on Hurst Road and have felt the benefits of actively being involved in growing produce.

The plot will feature a raised planter with sweet peas, plants to make tea with, edible flowers and fruit and vegetables.

Emphasising the social aspect of the initiative, there will also be seating area for individuals to take a socially-distanced tea break.

People will also be encouraged to connect with other activities in the local area, as well as with other plot holders.

The response to the initiative from other plot holders has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’ and the team are keen for other residents, especially those with ‘defined mental health needs’ to benefit from the ‘friendly community atmosphere’ at the Hurst Road allotments.

The project is open to all ages and the team are aiming to obtain their first referrals this spring.

Cllr Abeywardana, said: “I have been impressed with the progress that the team has made in bringing the initiative to fruition.

“We have now tidied the entire plot, put up a shed and we are starting to clear the beds. It has been an exciting project for Twyford Parish Council to set up alongside Age UK Berkshire.

“The past year has been an unsettling period of time for everyone; we have seen an increase in those feeling isolated, anxious or depressed.

“I am pleased that we have been able to set up an initiative at a local level that aims to help as many adults of all ages as possible with low-level mental health needs. We are looking forward to welcoming our first gardeners this spring. We hope that the gardener’s experience the therapeutic benefits of being outside in nature and growing”.

If you or someone you know could benefit from the initiative, contact Milly Randall-Davies at: milly.randall-davies@nhs.net or Jason Bowles at: jason.bowles@nhs.net, at Twyford Surgery or call 01344 304 404.

For more information about the project in general contact Cllr Rohana Abeywardana at: greenprescription@twyfordparishcouncil.gov.uk or visit: www.twyfordparishcouncil.gov.uk/green-prescriptions-initiative

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