Sat within 400 acres of historic grounds with its own rich heritage of horticulture, Merrist Wood runs a fantastic initiative to help Surrey residents combat stress related health issues and to forge connections with others in the local community.
The gardening programme, Gardening Skills for All, runs on a purely voluntary basis and was initially created to help Surrey people connect with nature, and each other, as we navigated our way out of the global pandemic.
The scheme has continued to help people develop basic gardening skills, provide fresh air, improve overall well-being and general fitness and make new friendships along the way.
The sessions now run on an informal basis during term time and are totally free for participants if they meet certain eligibility criteria.
Jo Stanworth, Community Gardening Facilitator at Merrist Wood College, said:
“The pandemic served to reinforce just how important for it is for our mental wellbeing to have access to outside space and to be part of a supportive community.
“Merrist Wood College offers acres of beautiful and varied landscape – including formal gardens and areas that provide the perfect opportunity to create some stunning horticultural displays.
“Recognising what an opportunity we have here, we put in place a project that would benefit the local community by giving them the chance to get their hands dirty in the fresh air, learn some new skills, make new friends and have fun.
“Participants are able to work at their own pace and choose which sessions they’d like to attend, it’s all very flexible.”
Volunteer gardener, Sally Bailey, has been a part of Merrist Wood’s community gardening group since October 2022 and joins in with gardening projects within various areas of the college grounds three times a week.
Sally said: “I get a lot out of this activity, I’ve made loads of new friends and have learnt so much about gardening, which is not something I was particularly interested in before I started. It’s now turned into a bit of a passion!
“I get such a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at the end of the day when I look down at the area I have been working on, knowing that it is going to bring pleasure to people for years to come.
“I have made loads of new friends since I’ve been coming here, everyone is so welcoming and there is a real sense of teamwork. I love helping the new starters get settled in.”
The scheme is Government funded and free to people who match criteria such as low income, over 65s, single parents or those that have a disability or are struggling with their mental health.
For full details about the scheme including information regarding the eligibility criteria, please see our Gardening Skills for All web page.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the Merrist Wood Community Gardening Group, please email email@example.com