Restoring mental wellbeing at the allotments
Elder Stubbs allotment sits in the middle of Temple Cowley creating a quiet oasis from the bustle surrounding it. The allotments are run by Restore, an Oxfordshire-based mental health charity that helps people to take control of their recovery, develop skills, and lead meaningful lives. They work with anyone who feels their mental health is having a substantial and long-term negative effect on their day-to-day life. Local residents can be referred by health or social care professionals or can self-refer.
To raise funds and awareness of their work, the charity holds an annual Festival for all the family. This year’s Festival attracted around 2,500 visitors and raised £10,000.
The funds raised go towards helping Restore promote mental wellbeing and recovery. To support the event Restore asks local businesses for financial assistance in return for advertisement opportunities and for volunteers to help with the logistics before and after the event. This is where Picker came in.
Here at Picker, we have four pillars of behaviour which we refer to as our DNA: Lead, Inspire, Collaborate and Progress. As part of how we ‘Collaborate’, staff are offered the opportunity to take time out from their day job and help at a local charity. That is how I ended up spending a lovely, warm August day at Elder Stubbs allotments.
Arriving a few days after the festival, our task was to take down the gazebos, remove the staging from the site and get it all back into the storage facility it came from. Sounds easy! We diligently packed away the different parts of the gazebos, then it took some teamwork to move the larger sections of staging. I was glad I was in the team packing away in sunny weather, rather than being part of the team who built them in the rain the previous week.
Whilst we had been busy tidying away, a group of volunteers were cooking lunch for everyone using produce from the allotment. We ate lunch together around a big table. Chatting to one of Restore’s coaching team, I found out about the Oxfordshire Recovery College which is based at the Restore site in Manzil Way, Cowley.
Like Picker, the College believes that individuals are the experts of their own experience – and therefore they encourage people to choose a course that interests them. Each week there is a schedule of courses based around: understanding different types of mental ill-health, creative hobbies (eg creative writing), and physical activities (eg yoga).
The College believes that lived experience and professional expertise go hand-in-hand, and are both equally valuable. Therefore, all the courses are written and delivered by both an ‘Expert by Experience’ and an ‘Expert by Training’, who use their combined knowledge to give up-to-date advice and information.
The breadth of support available from Restore amazed me. It struck me how fortunate we are to have this resource ready to help the most vulnerable in Oxford.
Recovering from mental ill-health is known to be helped by belonging to a community, being in nature, and by access to good nutrition and physical exercise. Elder Stubbs provides all these things and more. I left feeling relaxed and slightly envious of those who can spend time at this peaceful site.
Lesley Dewhurst, Chief Executive, Restore commented:
Having corporate volunteers come and help with things like this is more than just giving us a helping hand. It demonstrates to all Restore’s members that other people are interested in the work we do and want to help support their mental health recovery. It is also a great way for the general public to find out about Restore and what we offer.
Mental ill-health touches most people in some way – either individually, or friends, family, colleagues. It is really important that we help everyone find out more about what we have to offer. Thanks so much to ALL our volunteers, and thanks in particular to Picker for their recent input.
Find out more about getting help from Restore or volunteering.
If you’re 16+, living in the UK and have tried to access mental health support in the last 12 months we’d love to hear about your experiences.