Award-winning Little Irchester mental health project appealing for storm damage help

The project is reaping incredible results for people living with mental illnesses using garden-based therapy

Friday, 14th February 2020, 10:45 am
Updated Friday, 14th February 2020, 1:52 pm
Lee Henty, Andy Murray, Mariann French and Rob Stone in the polytunnel, donated by JTR, that was not ripped by Storm Ciara

Patients of an award-winning mental health gardening project are appealing for help to restore their newly installed polytunnel, destroyed by Storm Ciara.

For the past three years, the 'Up The Field' group based on allotments in Little Irchester, has been helping people living with mental illnesses as an occupational therapy recovery service.

Last Wednesday, patients and volunteers had finished erecting the tubular framed green house to match an identical one donated by a Raunds company.

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Andy Murray with the frame of the polytunnel

Patient Lee Henty, who had the original idea for the 'Up The Field', said: "We finished the new polytunnel on Wednesday and I came up at the weekend to try to weigh them down.

"The wind took off the cover and it's ripped in half. The other greenhouse had been lifted up about a foot in the air. Luckily it didn't flip over."

A replacement cover will cost £80, but the project is unfunded and many of the patients are unable to work due to their illnesses.

In 2015, Mr Henty, from Rushden had been admitted to hospital suffering from depression and anxiety.

l-r Lee Henty, Rob Stone and Mariann French

Once discharged, he joined a walking project lead by Mariann French an occupational therapist working in the Planned Care and Recovery Treatment Service (PCART).

On one walk through Little Irchester, the group members including Mr Henty and fellow patient Andy Murray from Wellingborough, hatched a plan to run an allotment to improve their well-being.

At first health bosses were unsure about the project but Mr Henty's parents supported the group supplying a shed and a toilet.

Ms French, who retired in 2019, still volunteers at the project she helped set up.

Andy, Lee and Rob tidy the broken polytunnel

She said: "My job was to facilitate groups and look at people with anxiety and depression and look at the different ways in the community to make them feel comfortable. That's how we got the allotment."

Mr Henty, 57, attributes his improved mental health to the project and is proud that not one of the Up The Field patients have had to return to hospital.

He said: "I'm a recovered service user. I no longer have depression. If you had seen me in 2015, I was hospitalised. I came out and worked with Mariann and it's been better than any pills they've given me.

Set up in 2016, the self-funded gardening project had been gaining plaudits including winning the Weetabix Local Food Hero of the Year title at last year's Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards.

Through word of mouth donations have been made to the allotment with the group of ten patients, Ms French and NHS volunteer Rob Stone working hard during their one-day-a-week sessions.

As well as the polytunnel from JTR Collections Wellingborough, the group have received donations of garden furniture from Re-Vive of Moulton, tea and coffee supplies from Keba Computers of Daventry and a £2,000 from a fundraising assault course by service users.

Mr Murray, 49, who is being treated for paranoid schizophrenia, has been helping grow vegetables, fruit and flowers.

He said: "It lifts my mood and have given me confidence. If I was at home all I would be doing is sitting doing nothing.

"I want to come here and it does me good. I learn new skills. I'd never really done any gardening before and I've now lost four stone."

NHS volunteer Rob Stone from Higham Ferrers works on the allotment as part of the PCART team.

He said: "We have recently been donated a polytunnel and some other people have also donated things like a patio set. a selection of garden tools and a load of coffee and tea. An elderly couple left £100 in an envelope for us.

"I would really like the public to be aware of what we are trying to do and give some recognition to the people who have helped us in the hope that more may do so.

"We are unfunded and really want to keep it going but Lee the team leader, and myself have got limited funds.

"We have a very proud record as at this moment in time none of the patients we have helped have had to go back into hospital."

Anyone who can help the Up The Field project can contact Mr Henty by emailing [email protected]