News in Pictures

Gardening sessions to help women’s wellbeing starting in Knowle West

Main image: The four occupational therapists who are starting gardening sessions for women at Inns Court Community and Family Centre garden. Left to right: Sara Evans, Polly Hallett, Lydia Gianetti and Simone Davis.

All images supplied by OT Outdoors.

Four occupational therapists are starting a local project for women this May combining gardening with crafts and cooking – to improve health and wellbeing through connection to nature.

Women’s Gardening for Wellbeing sessions will take place in the garden at Inns Court Community and Family Centre (ICCFC) every other Tuesday during term time – starting with a taster session on 17 May.

As well as growing flowers, vegetables and herbs – those taking part will have the chance to be creative and to cook and share food together – with the added benefits of enjoying the outdoors.

The project has been started by qualified occupational therapists (OTs) Sara Evans, Simone Davis, Lydia Gianetti and Polly Hallett – who are all “strong believers in the therapeutic benefits of working with and in nature.”

The seed of the idea came from their meetings at one of their allotments around a fire – often doing a gardening or craft activity and there was “always food involved”. They thought they would like to offer these type of sessions to others – and formed a Community Interest Company called OTOutdoors.

Food and craft activities for one of their seasonal celebrations.

They explain: “…We are all between us, currently practicing OTs in mental health, social care and community development. We got together around a year ago during the height of the pandemic, as we all felt the need to connect with nature as an antidote to the restrictive and solitary nature of our jobs which had become so computer based.

“We saw first hand that isolation is a big problem affecting many people we work with, and that it was having a huge impact on health and wellbeing – and this was exaggerated during the pandemic. We wanted to offer therapeutic, practical, fun and creative experiences outdoors for people to connect with themselves, each other and nature as a way to try to support peoples’ health and wellbeing. 

“As OTs our fundamental professional belief is that people need to have meaningful and purposeful ways to spend time, and to build connections with others – and these things are crucial to health and wellbeing. Alongside this there is a wealth of evidence to support the claim that spending time in nature is beneficial to our health…” 

Polly (left) and Lydia with Chris Boddington who runs the garden at Inns Court Community and Family Centre where the sessions will be held.

The four colleagues are now working with Chris Boddington, a volunteer who set up Knowle West Edible Garden CIC after helping to start the community garden at ICCFC last year – which already has other groups using the space.

The OTs have been running sessions with students from Knowle DGE already on some Tuesdays – and following a grant from Green Social Prescribing (WeSport) have now been able to start their pilot project for women.

Women’s Gardening for Wellbeing sessions are inclusive and for anyone who identifies as a woman or non binary. No experience is necessary and all equipment will be provided – but let organisers know any access or dietary requirements beforehand.

The project starts with a Taster Day on Tuesday 17 May from 10.30am and 1.30pm with further sessions on 14 and 28 June and 12 and 26 July at the same time.

For more information email 4otoutdoors@gmail.com or call 07927 358 548 or see the flyer below.