We are very fortunate to be able to run our Social and Therapeutic Horticulture sessions from our garden space within the beautiful Windmill Community Gardens. The Windmill team have been incredibly generous, allowing us to use this space so that we can continue to work closely with them and so that participants can be involved in the wonderful gardens as a whole after their time with us.

We thought it would be interesting to share the development of our specially designed garden space, set up specifically for one-to-one counselling and small group gardening activities, in a beautiful environment with nature all around. Before getting into the detail of how the garden was built, a huge thank you and expression of gratitude must be made to all of the staff and volunteers who have worked so hard and supported us on and off the garden right from the start. To everyone who chopped, dug, built, hammered, barrowed, shovelled, carried, advised, cheered us on and more, we literally couldn’t have done it with out you! A thousand thank yous!

This part of Windmill community gardens is incredibly peaceful, overlooked by a number of trees and hedging which we have noticed is a wonderful habitat for lots of bird species, particularly the friendly robins. It is perfect for our work. The ground can become boggy in the winter months and after a lot of rain, so the first thing we needed to plan was a way of raising up buildings and beds to make sure they remain undamaged by moisture. Our colleague James, a professional builder and building teacher worked with us to plan a platform structure where our summerhouse (counselling room) and compost toilet would stand.

Garden before small shed was removed and weeds cleared

Early March was an incredibly busy time, ordering materials, booking deliveries and planning our time to start the building work. We had begun clearing the area of overgrown weeds and brambles and lots of rubbish left by the previous tennant. The ground was wet and muddy so it was hard going but the fist big part of the job came together one weekend when the last of the bricks and blocks of cement were moved and the platform was created.

Next came the delivery and assembly of the summerhouse and toilet shed. We purchased these from a local family-run company called Sherwood Sheds. Sherwood Sheds were great, from helping us to choose and order the right buildings to bringing the pieces on site through some challenging terrain and cheerfully putting the buildings together. Nothing was too much trouble and we highly recommend them!

With these very important buildings in place it was time to move on to construction of the garden itself. The rest of the area needed to be cleared and a huge stump and roots from an old willow dug out. Again, because of the wet ground we had to create ‘feet’ for the secure metal tool shed to stand upon. This involved digging four carefully measured and positioned holes, filling them with rubble from broken bricks, which were tamped down and reinforced with cement.

Once the ‘feet’ were dry the metal shed was assembled and it was wonderful to be able to fill it with all of our tools and equipment, much of which had kindly been donated to us. Similarly we built brick platforms for the raised beds, which are made from pallet collars, an absolute bargain and perfect for the job. The rest of the ground was covered with weed suppressant and woodchip for a clear and tidy area in which to work. We treated the platform decking to stop it from becoming slippy in the wet weather too.

Then the finishing touches of adding pots and plants were added and our reclaimed trolley which would become our nursery to prepare and sell plants. The final photos were taken in May and since then the garden has come to life with beautiful flowers and veg grown by our first social and therapeutic horticulture sessions participants.