As our previous blog attests, the physical and mental benefits of gardening are proven. So much so, that in parts of the country, GPs are prescribing gardening as a ‘medicine’ of sorts as there is evidence to confirm that it reduces the need to see a GP or attend A&E, enhances wellbeing and even promotes better sleep.
In addition to gardening, GPs are also recommending volunteering for some patients as a growing body of research suggests that it’s a particularly powerful combatant in the mental health arena. Volunteering can help with issues such as self-esteem, reduce social isolation and anxiety and for many, learning a new skill can provide a step up into paid employment.
So, coupled together, it’s no surprise that volunteering and gardening combined – ‘gardeneering’, if you will – make for a potent powerhouse in the pursuit of happiness.
You don’t have to be an expert gardener to get involved, so if you fancy it, don’t be put off by worries that you don’t have enough experience. A quick look on the internet reveals many small local and large national gardening initiatives, trusts and charities that rely on volunteers – both young and old – to dig, weed, deadhead and prune their way to horticultural happiness. If you don’t fancy getting your hands that dirty, some offer other ways of getting involved such as manning the trestle tables at fundraising plant sales, cataloguing seeds or taking visitors around the gardens on guided tours.
While we can’t list them all, here are a few organisations which may whet your appetite:
Thrive – a gardening charity founded in 1998. Thrive uses gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people living with disabilities or ill health, who are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable. It is always keen to recruit more help and has opportunities up and down the country in Beech Hill, Berkshire; Battersea Park, London; Kings Heath Park, Birmingham and Saltwell Park, Gateshead. http://www.thrive.org.uk/volunteer.aspx
The RHS – RHS Volunteers’ Support enhances the work of garden teams at all four RHS gardens – Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, Hyde Hall in Essex, Rosemoor in Devon and Wisley in Surrey. https://www.rhs.org.uk/about-the-rhs/support-us/volunteering
The National Trust – with houses and gardens across the length and breadth of the country, National Trust volunteers have the opportunity to work at some of the most unique and famous outdoor places. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/volunteer
Do It Trust – a database of UK volunteering opportunities to help find something that’s right for you – gardening or otherwise. Just pop in your details and what you’re interested in doing and it’ll search out openings up and down the country. https://do-it.org/