Patients and staff at Leicester’s Bradgate Mental Health Unit have been gardening against the odds through the Covid-19 pandemic, to support their mental health recovery journeys, which have been recognised by virtual awards.

Their efforts have transformed previously dull and unkempt areas into award-winning therapeutic havens which have been showcased in the annual Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT) annual ‘Let’s get Gardening ‘ awards.

The ward teams have worked with patients to create therapeutic safe spaces to benefit patients. As well as putting their green fingers to the test, each ward had to be creative about showcasing their work as coronavirus meant the awards  had to be judged virtually.

This is the  second year of the Trust’s ‘Let’s Get Gardening’ competition. The horticultural showcase awards have become an annual summer highlight for staff and patients alike. This year gardening projects, in both on ward and in off ward spaces at the Bradgate Unit, have continued to go from strength to strength despite restrictions due to Covid-19. Staff have been able to socially distance to work with Covid-19 restrictions, offering one-to-one or small gardening groups during the recent good weather.

The awards ceremony took on a virtual twist and the winners were revealed in an innovative video:

Heather Ward’s project won the top prize with their creative use of recycled tyres and pots to make colourful new planters which now sit in a beautiful garden area. Patients were involved in designing and tending the garden and  Cathy Ellis, chair of LPT and the Raising Health charity and one of the judges  said: “I particularly liked the way the team engaged with patients and service users from the start. The upcycling of the tyres is a great idea. Well done and thank you.”

A Heather ward patient said: “I was here when the garden project began and the garden was messy and dull. Nobody really used it or cared about it. When I was last here, the weather was beautiful so we spent so much time working on the garden and having lots of laughs together.

“I was readmitted to the ward not long ago and it was so nice to see the progress it has made. I planted seeds in one of the creative garden groups and when I came back it was still here and had grown so much.”

The Let’s Get Gardening Project (or Awards) has been made possible thanks to funding and donations from the Incredible Edibles Network, the Charity of Carlton Hayes and Raising Health, LPT’s charity, to transform the outdoor spaces at the Bradgate Unit. The aim is to bring a touch of home and provide rewarding, therapeutic activities for people with acute mental illness that is over and above their NHS treatment and supports their recovery. Carolyn Pascoe, Raising Health’s new fundraising manager said:

“We are very pleased to be able to support the Let’s Get Gardening project. These activities help provide adults with acute mental illness with fresh air and physical activity in a safe and nurturing space and can help assist their road to recovery.”

Katie Crowfoot, the unit’s occupational therapy team lead and awards judge said: “Covid-19 has placed a huge barrier in the way for 2020’s gardening projects for both patients and the occupational therapy team however staff across the Bradgate Mental Health Unit have shown amazing commitment and strength.

I am so proud of all of the work that has been undertaken.”

Donations to support the Let’s Get Gardening project can be made via the Raising Health website.