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Schools collect bottles to build community garden greenhouse

Thu 01st August 2019

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Local schools asked to save plastic bottles to build Houghton-le-Spring Primary Care Community Garden a greenhouse.

Since work began last autumn, Houghton Primary Care Centre‘s community garden has been transformed from a run-down space to an inviting oasis by volunteers from NHS Property Services. So far, work has included repairing, raising and filling the beds, clearing pathways, removing weeds and rubbish, and reinstating the water pump.

Now, the team are hoping to build a greenhouse in which to grow organic fruit and vegetables for the community. To do this, they’re asking local school children to donate empty 2 litre plastic bottles, which can be used to build walls. Smaller drinks bottles can be used to build doors.

As well as providing a tranquil green space, the garden has been designed as a facility for social prescribing. GPs and other healthcare professionals will refer patients to the garden as non-clinical therapy for a range of issues. The project is a part of NHS Property Services strategy to transform under-utilised space into functional facilities for social prescribing.

Operations Compliance Manager Kathryn McDonald has led the project, working alongside volunteers and national charity Groundwork. She says: “I’m delighted that the garden is being used by the Sunderland Community and local residents are benefiting.”

“We would like schools to get involved by having their students collect bottles and we’d also like to invite on-site participation. Children and young people love being outdoors and the garden is an excellent environment to optimise both health and learning.”

community garden

NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) oversees a number of initiatives to prevent obesity, support those with mental health issues, and boost health and wellbeing across Sunderland. Dr Saira Malik, one of the CCG’s Executive Lead GPs, said: “This is a really exciting project and one that brings value in terms of social prescribing. Increasingly, modern healthcare is moving towards more holistic ways of treating many conditions and illnesses.

“Used alone, or alongside medication, prescribing social and interactive activities like those delivered in the Community Garden can have a lasting, positive impact for all our patients.”

One group already reaping the benefits of the garden’s revival are Sunderland Recovery College. The college offers a range of courses for people living with mental health problems. Now, it’s running a 12-week gardening course, with students growing everything from lettuce, beetroot and radishes, to leeks and broad beans in the Community Garden.  One student said “It’s just nice to be in a place that is really quiet, away from the stresses of home.”

Spending time outdoors in the natural world has been proven to provide great health benefits, whatever your age. As well as boosting the immune system and raising energy levels, outdoor activities like gardening lower stress levels.

Staff at the garden hope local people of all ages and circumstances will get involved with the project.

Schools that would like to collect bottles for the greenhouse or bring students along to use the garden should contact Kathryn McDonald: kathryn.mcdonald@property.nhs.uk

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