Mental Health Awareness Week, with its ‘connecting with nature’ theme, seemed the ideal time to start on our new communal allotment patch.

With a spring in their step, the team of avid gardeners, led by volunteers Oliver and John, were delighted to receive the keys and are ready to sow the first seeds.

NAViGO nurse practitioner and project member Adele Drury said: “We’re very excited to be able to start our project as we prepare for the incoming summer. The allotment will be great opportunity for our service users, volunteers and staff to spend more time outdoors and truly embrace nature.

“We know the benefits of horticultural therapy, but not everyone has access to their own outdoor space. The allotment lets us go that extra step, holding group activities and giving our service users a sense of responsibility and ownership. We’re all looking forward to welcoming our first gardeners this summer.”

At NAViGO, we know more than most the benefits of green-fingered activity. Owners of Grimsby Garden Centre, we use the facility to get people from disadvantaged backgrounds and individuals with mental health difficulties back into work by offering them skills, training and employment opportunities, and providing over 5,500 hours of horticultural therapy a year, on average.

Grimsby Garden Centre is also a not-for-profit organisation which means that any profit made by the centre goes back into its upkeep and straight into NAViGO, to be used to improve mental health services across North East Lincolnshire.

Volunteer and community member John Tucker is someone who knows the benefits of gardening. Following a lengthy career teaching John suffered a mental breakdown. During his recovery journey he discovered how nature and spending time tending to his garden gave him purpose and a reason to get up in the morning.

John said: “I’ve been able to spend time in the garden and less time worrying about other things. It calms me down, it gives me an interest and it gives me a reason to get up in the morning and do things.”

Research published by the University of Sheffield during lockdown confirmed that allotments are good for you and your mental health. Findings from 163 volunteers demonstrated high levels of social and community activity, including the sharing of surplus food produce, knowledge exchange, awareness and interaction with wildlife, emotional connection to their allotment, appreciation of time spent outside and aesthetic delight in the natural world.

With the support of Grimsby Garden Centre and additional funding received from NAViGO’s chosen charity The Gardiner Hill Foundation to purchase new equipment and plants, it is hoped the initiative will help build and strengthen self-esteem, confidence, and resilience in a peer-support environment, encouraging those involved to connect with other activities in the local area.