Hammersmith Community Gardens Association

Therapeutic gardening in the city

The mental and physical benefits of gardening and nature are well documented, but some members of the local community need support to join in. Since 1984, Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA) has worked to bring the benefits of gardening to local people in several London boroughs, including Hammersmith and Fulham where residents have access to less green space than most Londoners. HCGA wants to extend access to their community gardens to people whose wellbeing has suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At Kusuma Trust, we share HCGA’s commitment to investing in the environment and improving health and wellbeing. That’s why we’ve supported the association since 2020. In 2022, we awarded HCGA over £24,000 for two new projects. The first is called ‘Grow Well’, a 12-week health and wellbeing gardening programme for people who’ve struggled with mental health, wellbeing or other effects of lockdown, or people who need support to take part in HCGA’s activities. The second project is to develop a new database and handbook to improve how they manage and train their volunteers.

  • In Hammersmith and Fulham over 50% of older residents live alone, among the highest levels nationally.
  • 97% of HCGA volunteers say that their involvement with the charity is a positive experience that they would recommend to others.
  • Volunteers stated that learning new skills and socialising were the main motivations for coming to sessions.

Growing wellbeing

Each week, around 16 people will take part in Grow Well at Ravenscourt Park’s glasshouses, gardening, making herbal products, cooking healthy food and enjoying nature activities. At the end of their 12 week course, Grow Well participants will be invited back for monthly volunteering sessions and encouraged to join other HCGA groups, allowing them to continue reaping the benefits of being in nature and working with others in the local community. The course will be repeated several times throughout the year with new groups of participants. Grow Well is expecting to reach 65 people in total in 2022-23.

HCGA has more than 60 volunteers and the number is growing. Many volunteers have physical or mental health problems that prevent them from working in paid employment. Volunteers learn valuable new skills and spend time with others, combatting social isolation. HCGA will improve volunteer-training with a new handbook. A shorter version will also be available for professionals interested in referring their clients to HCGA projects. A new volunteer database will allow HCGA to reward people for their contribution and help HCGA write references for volunteers.

“HCGA is an excellent example of a project that has consistently worked with those most disadvantaged communities, providing opportunities for learning about sustaining the environment and gardening. HCGA’s ability to attract volunteers from a wide range of socio- economic backgrounds is a testament to their open door policy and the ability of their staff to provide a welcoming space. 

Dr Hockey, North Hammersmith and Fulham Primary Care Network

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