Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of the BBC show Gardener’s World – in fact, it’s the only reason we maintain a TV licence and every year when the licence renewal is up, I consider not renewing as Mrs Jez and I hardly watch any television, unless friends or colleagues are on. Every year I’m reminded of that Victoria Wood gag where she explains that the television license inspector came knocking on her door: “we’ve reason to believe you’re watching television without a licence and are fined £100”, to which Wood explains that she’s only watching Gardener’s World, to which the inspector replies: “oh, ok, call it fifty”.
Last year I remember watching our friend Adam Frost visit some community projects that were using gardening as a mechanism to bring communities together and to offer what was essentially distraction therapy for those who had suffered all sorts of different life traumas. Refugees who had been forced out of their country, witnessing (and in one case personally subjected to) rape, famine and destruction in the process. Children with learning difficulties and special educational needs who felt that they didn’t quite fit in; the recipients of bullying behaviour and feeling confused. Different nationalities; religions; social backgrounds and here they all were, together – gardening. Growing vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruit – together. No prejudice and in some cases not even a common language among them, however, despite the social, economic, psychological and behavioural extremes, Frost began to unpick their stories, revealing to us, the emotionally overwhelmed viewers, that here was nature, healing.
Some of these individuals had been to the most darkest places in their minds and souls: they had witnessed and been subjected to some of the most horrific examples of behaviour our species can exhibit. But with their hands in soil; preparing and nurturing new life in the form of plants and in turn enjoying the culinary benefits of their labour, there was solace.
If nature can help to heal and provide efficacious restorative opportunities for human health, wellbeing and behaviour when we are at our lowest and despite the most extreme of circumstances – just imagine what contact with nature could do for those of us fortunate enough to not be in those positions?
Gardening activities are, for me, the most obvious