Horticultural Therapy at Pennine Camphill Community


In December 2014 I was invited to visit Pennine Camphill Community and its garden by Garden Manager James Lee and Transition Officer Anita Hepple.

Pennine Camphill Community is part of the wider Camphill Movement. The Camphill Movement aims to create community settings where children, young people and adults, many with learning disabilities, can live, learn and work together in an atmosphere of mutual co-operation, care and respect.

The Camphill movement is inspired from ideas of Rudolf Steiner (Austrian philosopher and social reformer) and developed by Karl König, the founder of Camphill.  It is based on the spiritual uniqueness of each person, regardless of their differences.

Pennine is a specialist college providing further education and support for young people who have learning difficulties. As their name suggests, Pennine is more than just a college, it is a community. “Many aspects of life at Pennine revolve around the five households which provide a home life for residential students and work and training opportunities for day students. Day students join one of the houses where they have lunch sharing some of the daily household activities.  Each house has a different character, depending on the blend of people living in the household at any one time.” (taken from their website: http://www.pennine.org.uk/)


Pennine is located in the village of Chapelthorpe, between Wakefield and Barnsley in West Yorkshire and surrounded by nearly 50 acres of farmland and grassland which is home cattle, sheep and pigs and bees. As well as horticulture they offer a range of therapeutic and educational activities, such as weavery, woodwork, basket weaving, pottery as well as ‘tools for self reliance’ where students refurbish tools. Pennine’s approach aims to stimulate creativity and allow students to build a sense of achievement and develop self-confidence and self-esteem.


The vegetable and fruit gardens cover 3 acres and consist of four very large vegetable beds, an agricultural sized polytunnel which is adjacent to a series of accessible raised beds made from railway sleepers. The garden also includes two new greenhouses which are interlinked by a connecting door which allows one area to be insulated and heated in winter. They also have access to an indoor work and storage facilties on the ground floor of the craft hub.


Similar to the traditional Victorian walled kitchen garden the fruit, vegetables and salads are taken to the five on-site houses daily to produce seasonal healthy meals for the day students and house residents. This provides a clear end product for the students growing the produce. They also preserve the produce by freezing and creating items such as passata which are stored for winter use.

The organisation is always on the look out for community projects to be involved in which not only provides a change of scenary for the students but increases the profile of Pennine, the work they do and builds positive ties with the local community, projects such as growing sapling trees for the Friends of Newmillerdam who manage a local woodland.

In order to help to manage such a large site, and is the case with many horticultural therapy projects, the Camphill Community utilises local and live-in volunteers. The live-in volunteers, called co-workers, stay on site for a year and help to run the houses and learning activities. Currently James has volunteer from Colombia and South Korea who help with the garden projects.

To find out more about Pennine Camphill Community please visit: http://www.pennine.org.uk/

You can also follow Pennine Camphill Community on Twitter: @penniner

More excellent videos documenting the work being carried out at Pennine can be found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4vE43fV4KLJjPjREv6DR2Q

You can find how to apply for a student place please visit: http://www.pennine.org.uk/college/applications.php or phone our Admissions Secretary on 01924 255281.

To find out how to volunteer at Pennine please visit: http://www.pennine.org.uk/volunteering/index.php

To find out more Friends of Newmillerdam please visit: http://www.wdco.org/site/Friends-of-Newmillerdam-Country-Park/



HT at Minnesota Arboretum

I was also recently in Minnesota, USA and visited the horticultural program at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. I found this article from Lake Minnetonka Magazine which explains all about it.

To read the article please visit: http://lakeminnetonkamag.com/article/human-interest/minnesota-landscape-arboretum-horticulture-therapy

St. Joesph’s Health Centre, Guelph, Canada

I was recently in Guelph in Canada and managed to visit a couple of horticultural therapy projects, unfortunately this was not one of them due to staff being unavailable, but I thought this was an interesting article about their service.

This article has been taken from ‘H News’ – Canada’s Health Care Newspaper:

Complementing life at St. Joseph’s Health Centre

We all know that people are living longer and that there will be more of us as time goes on. The people who are in long term care now are cared for by knowledgeable, discerning spouses and children who are demanding that their relative get the most out of their last days at their new home. This means that they want more than the requisite, and very important, attention given to the activities of daily living for their loved one. They want the home to provide regular access to complementary leisure and recreation therapies so that life in this new home can somewhat emulate life as it used to be before moving in. Horticultural Therapy is one of these complementary therapies and is instrumental in normalizing the new home.

The Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association (CHTA) espouses the use of horticulture and related activities to improve the well-being of individuals. It is a holistic, complementary therapy that enriches us spiritually, emotionally and physically. Horticultural Therapy is a productive, non-threatening way to achieve pre-determined goals. It is intervention based and has measurable outcomes.

Every day at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Wanda Fabbian, Registered Horticultural Therapist, has an opportunity to deliver Horticultural Therapy to many people who live there. Monday begins the week with an evening group who, this week, will use cut dogwood, curly willow, and evergreens to create a winter patio pot. The branches have been cut from the property, and some have been donated by volunteers and staff. The ingenuity and impetus is the residents’. Not only do they get to do something for themselves they also contribute to the overall beauty of the environment.

On Tuesdays, the Greenthumbs, Men’s Horticulture Group, will continue to clean garden tools in preparation for next season. The tools are familiar to them and just when you think they are not going to talk someone starts to remember their days on the farm, or in their garden. Men are reticent to talk much at all when they are together so this group is particularly challenging to stimulate and when someone speaks you listen.

Sunflower’s is the women’s Hort. Group and there is no problem with chit chat in this group. Although, often the concentration level is also high and sometimes this makes for some silence. However, this is easily overcome when tea is served and the sweet tray is passed around. Women tend to share so much more about themselves and their families and a horticultural group is a great venue for this sharing. It is like the olden days when women gathered to accomplish a task for the greater good. So, this group makes pressed flower greeting cards and bookmarks for their own use, and to sell in our annual harvest sale.

The sale is now so successful that all the horticultural groups and some individuals are busy preparing for it as early as May. That is, as soon as the pansies are ready to be cut and pressed. But, it is the Food Adventurers that are the real stars of the sale. From June until September, this group assembles weekly to wash, peel, core, chop, and cook a variety of vegetables and fruit to make some pretty exotic preserves, such as Rose Petal Jam and Raspberry-Thyme Jelly. Their reputation precedes them so that they now have repeat business and sell out items.

Perhaps the most successful recipients of Horticultural Therapy are the folks with Alzheimer’s related dementia. A unique and special group of people with specific needs who respond very well to horticulture activities that are visible and almost instantly accomplished. The successes with this client group vary from starkly obvious to softly subtle. It is the accumulation of these successes that makes Horticultural Therapy a viable alternative to health and well-being.

The Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association is committed to promoting Horticultural Therapy. The association has existed for 18 years and yet it is surprising how many people still have not heard about the discipline. I think now is the time to introduce it to your facility, whether you are in an active hospital, long term care or day program. As facilitators of care we have a responsibility to enrich the lives of our clients.


Wanda Fabbian

Wanda Fabbian, BA is a registered horticultural therapist. For more information regarding the CHTA visit our website at www.chta.ca. By becoming a member you can learn more about the discipline of Horticultural Therapy and also, to help support the cause.

To view the full article please visit: http://www.hospitalnews.com/complementing-life-at-st-josephs-health-centre/

RHS Britain in Bloom – “Edible Britain”.

The RHS, in collaboration with Mr Fothergills Seeds is giving away 30,000 packets of seed to community gardening groups (of which there are estimated to be 2,000) to plant edible patches in public spaces as part of ‘Britain in Bloom 2013’.

More information can be found on the The Potting Shed blog: http://www.thepottingsheduk.co.uk/thousands-of-communities-to-create-edible-britain.php

Research Champions Gardening for High Cholesterol

A piece that I discovered on the Thrive website about recently released research from Brazil and America which promotes the prescribing of gardening as an appropriate treatment for people with high cholesterol levels.

You can read the full article here: http://www.thrive.org.uk/news/news/news-288.aspx

If You Can See A Tree You’re Likely To Be Happier

Interesting article on the Guardian website about a new report from the government which suggests that the areas worst hit by the current economic slide in the UK do not necessarily mean that they are the unhappiest, but that access to the natural environment plays a more important role than a lack of wealth.