Thrive, the marvellous gardening charity.

Posted: January 11th, 2016

The sad news of the demise of the charity ‘Gardening Leave’ at the end of last year inspired me to investigate charities working with horticulture as a way of helping people with a wide range of disabilities, ill health, or who are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable.

Thrive, the leading gardening charity in the UK is a beacon of the manifold benefits of what can be achieved by ‘social and therapeutic horticulture‘.

It works on many different levels: ‘physical, psychological and social skills’ says Tim Reynolds, who has been involved with Thrive for five years. Each year some 7,000 people aged from 14 to 85 seek advice from Thrive for a wide variety of different reasons including those rebuilding their lives after illness, blind and partially sighted people, people with depression or early dementia and teenagers with behavioural problems. Some are referred by doctors ‘We have good relationships with community care teams’ says Tim. And others simply volunteer.

Challenging pathway to improve balance and strengthen lower limbs of stroke survivors.

Challenging pathway to improve balance and strengthen lower limbs of stroke survivors.

Thrive has four regional centres: Reading, London, Birmingham and Gateshead.

Arriving at Thrive’s office in Battersea Park I was immediately struck by the imagination that permeates the charity from its stylish gently curving building, opened in June 2015, to the mobility pathway for people recovering from strokes. It was designed by Pedder and Scampton.

Thrive's new centre in Battersea designed by www.pedderscampton, opened in June 2015.

Thrive’s new centre in Battersea designed by www.pedderscampton, opened in June 2015.

All the staff are clearly very dedicated. ‘I would like to start a holiday programme, for kids with disabilities as there are not enough opportunities for them. It would also provide welcome respite for their parents’ says Ellen Swygart, Regional Centre Coordinator, who showed me round.

On offer in Battersea are four programmes:

Working It Out – vocational training and support for unemployed disabled Londoners to get jobs in London’s parks, gardening or horticulture.

Grow and Learn – work shadowing and support to help 16-25 year olds obtain a Level 1 qualification.

Growing Options – aimed at 14-16 year olds with special needs.

Life After Stroke – help stroke survivors improve their mental and physical health by working with horticultural therapists.

disabled gardening.

Raised beds specifically designed for wheelchair users.

In an inspired partnership Jo Malone sponsored Thrive’s ‘Old English Garden’ designed by Sarah Price best known as the co-designer of the acclaimed gardens at the 2012 Olympic Park. It is hard to believe that not so very long ago it was a neglected area.

Disabled gardening.

A Thrive volunteer in ‘The Old English Garden’ sponsored by Jo Malone in Battersea Park.

Along with the nearby Herb garden, the Old English Garden is the epicentre of Thrive’s horticultural training. ‘We grew all the vegetables for the Alitex Greenhouse at Chelsea Flower Show last year’ says Ellen proudly. Many of the plants in the Old English Garden are included in Jo Malone’s fragrances and some Jo Malone employees volunteer in the garden so it is marvellously mutually beneficial partnership. Jo Malone also sponsors the Working It Out programme. ‘It’s a very good relationship’.

If you don’t live near a Thrive centre don’t despair contact them and hopefully they will be able to put you in touch with a local project.

Wheelchair would be/or already active gardeners will find much of interest on the excellent page on the charity’s website ‘Gardening from a Wheelchair’ – top tips on skills such as pruning sitting down or moving things in the garden.

Three cheers for THRIVE.

Ring 0118 988 5688 for more information.