Wellingborough firm donates clubhouse to mental health allotment project

The volunteer-run project supports people suffering with mental illness

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 8:58 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 9:00 am
l-r Alan Beck, Simon Watts (Stable Hire Ltd), Rob Stone, Lee Henty and Mandy Woolf.

An award-winning Wellingborough mental health community allotment has been donated a new meeting room to keep members snug during the winter months.

‘Up the Field’, formerly known as ‘The Community Allotment Project’ has been based in Little Irchester for five years and can boast that none of its members have relapsed to need hospital care.

The green space offers garden-based therapy but until now when the weather got too bad the gardeners had to use the polytunnels to seek shelter. But thanks to a kind donation by Wellingborough-based BAM Site Solutions the former patients and other members of the Little Irchester Permanent Allotment Association will keep warm and dry.

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Lee watches the new unit being craned into place

Former patient Lee Henty and founding member of the 'Up The Field' project hatched a plan to run an allotment to improve patients' well-being while on a therapeutic walk through Little Irchester.

He said: "It will make a big difference to us. We have had to freeze in a polytunnel before - this will be a lot easier. The time they spend here could be their only social contact they get during the week."

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.

Lee, now facilitator volunteer, cleared the very neglected overgrown allotment space at the farthest point on the allotment site named ‘the forgotten corner’ - the ground had not been worked since 1976.

The former site drying room will be used by allotment users in Little Irchester

In the five years the group has grown potatoes, sweetcorn, sunflowers, dahlias, carrots and planted blossom trees including apple and pear trees.

A memorial garden space is also a quiet reflective area as a peaceful area to sit in memory of Lee’s father who passed away 2018.

In that time the project has scooped two awards - the Anne McWatt Award for innovation mental Health 2018 and then the Weetabix Local Food Hero Award in 2019.

It was Alan Beck from the Little Irchester Allotment committee who approached BAM to ask for the portable room and he arranged for the delivery and electrical hook up.

NHS volunteer Rob Stone from Rushden, who helps with the project, said: "We'd like to say thanks to Robin Foster at BAM for the donation and to Alan Beck from the Little Irchester Allotment committee for all their support from the very start.

"It brings the whole of the allotment community together."

Rachel Roche started off at the project as a service user and is coming back as a volunteer.

She said: "It gives you a sense of belonging. I come from a small holding background and I live in a flat with no garden. You can make new friends, you get out in the fresh air and it gives you a sense of purpose.

"It is nice to see things grow - planting a seed and seeing it growing gives me a sense of achievement."

During the summer a fundraising day organised by Rob's daughter Tracey produced over £900.

Lee added: "We raised £935 on the day and we want to give special thanks to Tracey for all her hard work. It's amazing."

Mandy Woolf, Northampton Healthcare Foundation Trust voluntary services manager, added: "People can self-refer to the Up the Field project. We have other services users who we are getting involved including Mind. Without the support of the community and the allotment the project would not be able to flourish."

Up the Field members meet once a week every Wednesday. Anyone interested in self-referring can email Lee Henty on [email protected]