Enya Stock talks to Annabelle Padwick, founder of National Growing for Wellbeing Week, about the mental and physical benefits of gardening and why we should all take a walk on the wild side
Annabelle loves nothing more than experiencing nature in her allotment and growing things.
But it’s not purely for the joy of seeing flowers bloom. Gardening, getting back to the land and plunging her hands into the earth has given her much needed solace, helping her to cope with mental health challenges.
It was this that inspired her to quit her 9-5 and set up Life at No.27, a wellbeing project which enables her to share her love of gardening with others and to help children and adults suffering with their own mental health.
It was named Life at No.27 because she was 27 when it began, she owned plot 27 at her allotment in Oxfordshire and it was all started on October 27 2015.
“It was initially set up as a blog to document my own allotment achievements and mental health journey,” says Annabelle, now 33.
A not-for-profit social enterprise, Life at No.27 provides gardening and wellbeing therapy for children and adults that struggle with any element of mental health or those that just feel a bit confused.
From helping with low confidence or self-esteem to those mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression or PTSD. To people struggling in their roles such as mums, dads, carers to children juggling the pressures of school, studying and social media – Life at No.27 helps people from all walks of life.
So many people find themselves lost, wondering who they are and not knowing where or how to make the right choices. “So that’s what we’re here for,” says Annabelle.
The project also led her to set up National Growing for Wellbeing Week.
The week is about getting more people involved, a chance to take lots of pictures and share your own stories of how gardening and growing your own food helps you and can help others.
We see so many children come to us and almost instantly feel so happy because of things like naming worms
It is a celebration of everything Life at No.27 are all about, she says. It highlights how gardening and growing your own food and flowers can help with overall wellbeing. It’s a week to raise awareness on a much bigger scale than the organisation can do alone.
“We can’t support the whole country yet. But hopefully we can encourage people at home, schools, colleges and more to get involved, give some of our tasks a go or just get outside into the garden more,” says Annabelle.
With a downloadable resource pack or printed glossy book and stickers for a small donation – there is plenty to get involved with during the week. The activities are for all age groups, with national curriculum links making it suitable for schools.
There will be competitions and lots going on over at Life at No.27 social media channels too.
The benefits to health and wellbeing are wide-ranging, Annabelle says.
The garden is your own place
Getting out into the garden improves our physical health because we are moving more. The garden is your own place, so everyone is free to move at their own pace – a good place for slowing down, re-charging and re-energising. But also a great place to build up, start adding squats and lifting watering cans – “It’s great for physical exercise,” she says.
It is also great for rehabilitation – people struggling with injury can so easily move at their own pace practising light movements to build strength and mobility.
It is also great for mental health – it can build confidence and self-esteem.
“Personally, for me, it was confidence and self-esteem,” she says, adding that going through rough periods in her own life spurred her on to want to help others, while going to her own allotment and seeing everything she had grown was something she could be proud of, even on some of her darkest days.
It is a great place to focus, concentrate and be practical in your own form – expressing creativity and emotions through growing whatever you want to, she believes. “People are proud of their achievements because they are able to go home to family and say ‘I grew this’ – it gives people a purpose,” Annabelle says.
Help to de-stress
Life at No.27 provide a safe space outside for those that may not have a safe place at home or those that don’t feel safe outside. They also help children to de-stress because for so many being a child is stressful. Particularly growing into a teenager, the pressures of social media, appearance, not being clever enough or being too clever – it’s a constant battle and a constant pressure.
“We see so many children and teenagers come to us and almost instantly feel so happy because of the little things like playing around and naming worms – it is a place where all their worries and external attitudes fade away, even if it is just for a little bit,” she says.