Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Thames Lodge allotment group

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Ask any keen gardener why they enjoy gardening and many will say it's because it

makes them feel good. Research shows that gardening in groups can improve

communication, help with learning new skills, and improve confidence. Here at

Thames Lodge in Southall, staff are using the power of nature to help

patients rediscover lost social skills and recover from mental illness.

"Today we are are in the process of thinning out some of the strawberries from the beds, we are

repotting some of our produce which has been sown earlier on in the season and

we're preparing some of the beds ready for planting when the frost goes at the

end of next month. I think the patients like being out here because it's a

physical activity that gets them to do something useful and

purposeful with their lives, they're learning at the same time, and also the physical

benefits of working outdoors and eating fresh produce you can't be overstated.

"It's a great way of stimulating and helping their mental health recovery."

"The joy in their face when they're out here and to see the progress of the crops you

know, it's that 'oh look what I've done I planted this last week look at

this' and you can see that it's, you know, like brownie points to them - that's how

they feel and they're keen to water, they're keen to feed, and they just get on

with it because they're that keen.

"When they first arrive they say 'oh can I see

what's grown this week?' So they're looking at the progress from last week

when they were down.

"I've seen people's moods improve partly because I think

they're out in the fresh air and sometimes it can feel like a bit of a

closed atmosphere if you're on the ward and the routine might be the same every

day, whereas with gardening you've got things and task to do. One of the

memorable moments and breakthrough for me was when one of our service users who

had enormous communication problems was doing some watering and actually thanked

me at the end of the session. He didn't speak much to other service users

or staff and I felt as though I was getting through to his mental health recovery in

helping him experience gardening and the joys of doing that.

"They're happy, they see what's been grown

- what they have grown, and that's the most important thing."

Of course, it's not only people in hospital who can benefit from the

positive effects of gardening. So as the weather is improving, maybe it's time we

all took down our phones, donned our wellies, and got our hands dirty.

The perfect antidote to a stressful modern life

The Description of Thames Lodge allotment group