This was the first of our projects to open in England and is situated at the Royal Hospital Chelsea – home to the Chelsea Pensioners. The project has been in operation since October 2010.
This year the garden has been transformed, with ISS Facility Services Landscaping kindly remodelling it with three-foot high raised beds so that veterans, who often have bad backs and knees, don’t have to bend to garden. The raised beds are also beneficial for those receiving mental health medication who then have balance problems, to lean against while they garden. While the veterans are relatively young and tend to be in their mid 30s, they have on average served 11 years in the military.
The paths between the beds are level to make them safer for moving around and increase veterans’ participation in the therapy. We also have a large meeting shed with twice the space of a normal garden shed, where we can cook veg from the garden with veterans and make garden crafts.
At the far and sunny end of the garden, is a small, raised pond and grassy area for relaxing and taking time to think.
Our ‘normal’ schedule for the garden includes a Monday gardening club for the pensioners from the Royal Hospital. They get to enjoy activities from painting flower pots and bird boxes, to planting miniature gardens and strawberry gutters!
All of this is just over the wall from the Contemplation Garden, a space that Gardening Leave veterans look after as a halfway place between the safety and enclosure of our site and the open-plan public places that they often find so worrying. Volunteers and donations allowed Gardening Leave to clear out an area of scrub that was overgrown and very dark and turn it into the light-filled Contemplation Garden for the Pensioners – we handed this over to them in June 2013.
As many veterans who attend Gardening Leave find it difficult to use public transport, we have opened a new outreach site in East Acton.
Telephone: 07903 039 106
Gardening Leave, The Royal Hospital, Royal Hospital Road, London, SW3 4SR
Monday: 10:00–14:00, Chelsea Pensioners Gardening Club
Wednesday: East Acton, CHT Homebase
Tuesday, Thursday: , 10:00–15:00
To see what we get up to at Chelsea, please check out our newsletter which gives you a great insight in to the activities that take place! Chelsea Newsletter
If you would like to attend this project or volunteer, please contact the Garden Staff:
- Zisky Stovell, Assistant Horticultural Therapist
- Ed Bowring, Horticultural Therapist