ISS Facility Services Landscaping and charity Gardening Leave are teaming up this summer to help provide more Armed Forces veterans across London with horticultural therapy.
In the run up to Armed Forces Day (29 June) and Seafarers Awareness Week (24th – 30th June), Gardening Leave, which offers gardening therapy sessions for veterans with combat related mental health issues, has opened its first ever outreach project at Community Housing and Therapy’s (CHT) Home Base project for psychologically traumatised veterans in East Acton.
ISS, the UK’s largest grounds maintenance service provider to the public and private sector, joined forces with the charity to provide the materials for, and build, the new garden which will be used by residents of CHT Home Base as well as those from other CHT projects across London. The ISS team together with Gardening Leave supporters and CHT veterans constructed a central seating area featuring a pagoda and decking; installed raised planters which were planted out with vegetable, herbs and flowers; created a tranquil area which featured sensory planting and a bench; and filled barrel planters with trees and plants.
The new garden, innovatively designed within a tarmac courtyard in the shadow of Wormwood Scrubs prison, features both gardening activities and a place to relax and think in peace. Horticultural therapy will be available one day a week, provided by Gardening Leave’s London horticultural therapist. Raised wooden beds, funded by The Besom, are filled with Dalefoot Compost’s sustainable compost made from sheep’s wool and bracken.
Gardening Leave’s Chief Executive Heather Budge-Reid said: “Many of the veterans from CHT Home Base find the challenges of public transport difficult, so we decided to bring the garden to them. We all know that green environments help lift moods and the horticultural therapy can have a big impact on veterans’ ability to make the transition to civilian life.”
“For us this is a perfect example of co-operation – two charities working together supported by a company with a strong sense of corporate responsibility, a perfect hybrid that will grow tall and strong!” she added.
Later this year ISS will also be helping to re-model Gardening Leave’s existing horticultural therapy site at the Royal Hospital Chelsea – refurbishing the space to make it more useable for veterans with bad backs and knees.
Phil Jones, Managing Director for ISS Facility Services Landscaping, said: “ISS is absolutely delighted to have been able to support Gardening Leave over the past three years in helping them to successfully accomplish their aim of creating gardens for veterans to experience the benefits of horticultural therapy. ISS is a strong advocate of the value of green spaces and their health benefits, particularly noticeable in enhanced mental wellbeing.
“The outreach garden at East Acton will deliver a safe and natural environment for the ex-service personnel at CHT Home Base and we are pleased to have been able to assist in providing this facility. I would also like to thank the ISS staff for their enthusiasm, professionalism and on-going commitment in completing the garden. Gardening Leave and ISS together is a real partnership arrangement, which ISS is fully committed to, and we hope to build on the support we give to the Gardening Leave projects as well as helping them to raise awareness of their vital work,” he added.
Photograph: Back – Derek Bell, Contracts Manager, ISS Facility Services Landscaping; Front – Peter Hughes, veteran