A Visit to Helmsley Walled Garden


Last week I visited the horticultural therapy program at  Helmsley Walled Garden in North Yorkshire. Helmsley is set within the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and approximately 15 miles east of Thirsk.

The walled garden once served as the kitchen garden for the Duncombe Estate. The original kitchen garden was closer to the River Rye but after being flooded out was re-located to it’s current position. The garden was eventually abandoned in 1984 before the restoration began 10 years later to bring the garden back to life. At the same time Alison Ticehurst felt that the garden should be utilised for benefiting the local community and a healing garden and horticultural therapy project was pursued. In 2014, the garden celebrates its 20 year anniversary.


The horticultural therapy service uses the term ‘Supported Volunteer’ to describe people accessing its sessions. There are currently 20 Supported Volunteers and approximately 100 volunteers helping to run and maintain the garden. The Supported Volunteers are involved in all aspects of the garden, with particular focus on the production and sale of plants to the general public. It is not a service for a specific disability or condition, all are welcome.

Helmsley Walled Garden does not charge for the service it provides for Supported Volunteers. The cost is covered by plant sales, entry to the garden (currently £5.50 for adults) and the on-site café. The service employs three part-time horticultural therapists and is run year round, with reduced hours over the winter months.


On a personal level, I would dare to argue that such a great service which is open to a variety of people and in a fantastic settings should receive direct payment in line with other day services. I appreciate that is by no means as easy as writing that sentence. There are all the legal ramifications and obtaining ‘preferred supplier’ status with the local care authorities but I would be surprised if it does not offer a service in line with other services provided in the area.

The manager highlighted a major concern for the future was that rural public transport is being considerably affected by the government spending cuts, which has reduced services in the area. In the long term, this may hamper Supported Volunteers from being able to just get to the garden.

The garden is open to the public from April 2014 and I thoroughly recommend a visit, if only to admire the long perennial borders and large array of trained fruit trees. There is of course a lot more to offer from a horticultural point of view, including the Victorian glasshouses, but you will be able to feel fulfilment that your entry fee and any subsequent spend it going to help run and worthwhile and excellent service for people in the local community.


For more information on Helmsley Walled Garden, its Horticultural Therapy Program and visiting the garden please visit: http://www.helmsleywalledgarden.org.uk/

‘Horticulture as a Medical Treatment’ – The Report


As posted on my Winston Churchill Fellowship blog page (www.thetravellinght.wordpress.com), I have recently completed the report on the findings of my horticultural therapy travels to the USA and Canada. It has been published on the WCMT website and is free to read and download from: http://goo.gl/NroUSc

Thrive: Green Care White Care

In November 2013 Thrive, the UK charity for horticultural therapy, held a seminar in London entitled ‘Green Care White Care: Gardening and Growing for Health’.

The seminar included seven presentations which can all be viewed and downloaded from the Thrive website where there is also a short video of Sir Richard Thompson’s keynote speech.


Kingwood Trust Autism Research

Green Spaces – Outdoor Environments for People with Autism

I intended to post this ages ago, but then wanted to read through it and it sort of got lost amongst other things but I have finally got round to what is a really useful piece of work. It obviously is aimed at people with autism but it stimulates thought about the things that should be considered when working with all groups of people outdoors. I found that the format flowed really well too.

It is free to download from the Kingwood Trust website along with their other research on environments and working with people with autism and Aspergers syndrome.


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/

Greening Dementia

Natural England have produced a literature review of the benefits and barriers facing individuals living with dementia in accessing the natural environment

As part of Natural Englands ‘Outdoors for All’ programme the aim of the report is to form to address the identified barriers and enable people with dementia to access nature and reep the benefits.

The report can be downloaded for free from the Natural England website: http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/6578292471627776