There were plenty of smiles during St Helena Hospice gardening group’s recent visit to Abberton nature reserve, and not just because of the quality of the tea and cakes on offer in the café.
Occupational Therapist Laura Murton runs the group alongside Rehab Assistant Glen McKenna who helps facilitate it. She explained the trip was a welcome change of scene for the group members.
“A lot of the patients aren’t able to get out any more so they get so much from coming to the group and actually being able to get out into the fresh air to somewhere they would previously have been able to visit. Reducing isolation is important, some people can go all week without seeing anybody.
“The gardening group is fairly new, and we’ve never been able to bring the patients out before, which is something we wanted to do, to get them out in nature rather than just talking about it. It’s been perfect here, it’s all level access and we’ve been able to get round in the wheelchairs.
“The staff have all been really friendly and helpful and the patients who’ve come have all been asking when they can come again. Richard our volunteer gardener has been great with all his specialist knowledge, and we’ve been really lucky that Tim and Roger have brought everyone here for us.”
After a walk round one of the reserve’s wheelchair-friendly paths, including a visit to a bird hide, the group gathered back in the visitor centre for afternoon tea.
“It’s been nice to get everyone out and see a smile on their faces”, said Laura.
Group member Shirley Bone, who has Lupus, attended the visit with her daughter Lucy. She said: “I used to be a keen gardener, and love handicrafts though I can’t do it anymore. It’s lovely to come to the groups, I really enjoy it. We’ve done some nice mosaic paintings and made some tealights for the hospice garden. It’s been really enjoyable
“It’s lovely coming here to get out in the fresh air, it makes you feel normal again. It’s lovely to have this on your doorstep.”
Another who enjoyed the day was Roy Botham (87).
“I attend the men’s cancer group and the gardening group and I thoroughly enjoy my time at both. At the men’s cancer group we talk about all sorts of things like how we feel and our outlook. I can relax a bit and chat to people, swap stories and experiences.
“I thoroughly enjoy the gardening group; we’ve planted seeds, potted up bulbs and flowers. Anything you can do while sitting down. I was a keen gardener, and I have two big greenhouses at home but I can’t do anything to them now.”
The group has also given Roy a chance to share his knowledge.
“The people who run it do extremely well but if I can help in any way I do. If I wasn’t doing this I would be sitting at home looking at the view out the back window all day long, not speaking to anyone.
Enjoying his tea and cake and admiring the view over the reservoir from the visitor centre, Roy said the day had been enjoyable.
“I like the company, having a good old yarn and a laugh. It’s been smashing”, he said.
The hospice would like to thank Tim and Roger its volunteer drivers who helped make the trip possible, and Pati at Abberton nature reserve who helped organise the trip as part of the hospice’s gardening group programme.