Award-winning Wellingborough mental health allotment back for clients

The volunteer-run project has helped people suffering with mental illness

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 3:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 3:36 pm

An award-winning Wellingborough mental health community allotment kept going by volunteers over lockdown is bouncing back with a successful open day to boost the hands-on project.

‘Up the Field’, formerly known as ‘The Community Allotment Project’, held its fourth annual open day earlier this month raising more than £1,000 for the green space offering garden-based therapy.

Patient Lee Henty had the original idea for the 'Up The Field' on a therapeutic walk through Little Irchester when he hatched a plan to run an allotment to improve their well-being.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Up The Field project is back helping people to manage their mental health

From its early beginnings with a shed and a loo, supplied by Mr Henty's parents, the project has helped people suffering from depression and anxiety.

Mariann French, a former occupational therapist working in the Planned Care and Recovery Treatment Service (PCART) and project volunteer, said: "Lee's parents supported with providing monies for a shed as a base and toilet. He cleared the very neglected overgrown allotment space we were given, which happened to be at the farthest point on the allotment site named ‘the forgotten corner’.

"This ground had not been worked since 1976, so as you can imagine a lot of work needed doing and Lee did not hesitate to get started.

"In the five years we have grown potatoes, sweetcorn, sunflowers, dahlias, carrots planted blossom trees, apple and pear trees. A memorial garden space as a quiet reflective area as a peaceful area to sit in memory of Lee’s father who passed away 2018. We have raised monies for two poly tunnel and won two awards - the Anne McWatt Award for innovation mental Health 2018 and then the Weetabix Local Food Hero Award in 2019."

l-r Lee Henty, Rob Stone and Mariann French in February 2020

Since the lockdown it has been difficult to run the project as many of the attendees had stopped coming - but the garden still needed maintaining.

Since retiring from her position as occupational therapy technician with the Planned Care and Recovery Team Mariann has become an official volunteer for Northampton Healthcare Foundation Trust along with Rob Stone from Rushden - an NHS volunteer.

She said: "Volunteering, along with Lee Henty and Rob Stone, is very rewarding especially seeing improvements to fitness levels social skills the joy of growing produce with the attendees.

"Rob’s daughter Tracey Stone has been such an amazing help supporting us in fundraising. This year's open day not only raised over £1,000 for this community group by getting different companies involved to support us but Tracey and her partner Neil held a raffle alongside this was a cake stall and homemade produce of jams and chutneys. A plant stall and the BBQ provided by Delicious Catering raised £198.16."

Stalls raised nearly £200 for the project

The latest phase of the project has been the manufacture and preparation of raised beds.

Mariann added: "The idea behind this is for our attendees to have their own small space of a raised bed box to grow their own vegetables or fruit and care for that throughout the year. We have designated an area for this, which is fenced off to protect against rabbits and muntjac deer. Rob and Lee have been busy through the year preparing these boxes.

"We would like to thank all those who attended the open day supporting us in preparing and of course the companies who financial supported and those who provided gifts for the raffle - Keba Computers, TJ Marketing, Reventus Ltd, Square Feet Co Work, Field Properties, Andy Jackson personal trainer, Xanadox Technologies, Curtis Thompson Turner Lovell Recruitment, Bobby’s the Butchers in Higham Ferrers and The Veg shop in Higham Ferrers."

The project was started in 2016 and has won two awards