Lewes House Sowing and Growing for Lewes in Lockdown

Behind Lewes House on School Hill there is a garden. It is surrounded by trees and an old wall and borders of shrubs and flowers, and was once looked after by a gifted gardener. Neglected since his retirement, the garden is the perfect setting for therapeutic gardening sessions. People come along once a week for their own wellbeing – physical and emotional – and because the garden is really in need of some care.  Some heard of us through word of mouth, others were ‘prescribed’ gardening sessions by Foundry Healthcare Lewes, which helped to set up the project. Some people come along to support others as well as to help restore the garden.

Lockdowns brought a pause  to  group sessions. Garden leaders, Anne-Marie Bur and Caroline Whitman, straight away looked for other ways to use their skills and came up with the idea of ‘Gardening Visits’. “Many of us have become familiar with the stresses of being cut off from our normal activities and social networks” said Anne-Marie Bur. The project now visits several households over the course of a morning. Face to face social contact in the garden or from a doorway, or even through a window is the main purpose of the visits, as well as a bit of pruning, weeding, or whatever simple tasks are needed.

“Gardening visits provide nurturing of both plants and people” said Caroline Whiteman. “One social prescriber noted that the project was the only form of face to face contact now available to many of her clients and one of these clients said the visit was the highlight of her week”, continued Caroline.  These activities have all happened thanks to funding support from Chalk Cliff Trust, Sussex Crisis Fund, and the Sussex Community Foundation.

The project has recently embarked on a new plan to ‘Sow and Grow’ a large selection of flowers, vegetables and herbs, thanks to the National Lottery Local Connections Fund. The idea came from those people and local community groups who kindly donated plants or seeds: U3A, the Lewes Community Allotment, Wildflower Lewes, Nevill Good Neighbours, Seedy Saturday Lewes and others. This meant that we could arrive at a home with a gift of plants. We also passed pots of pelargoniums and herbs to social workers in touch with families living in flats to grow on windowsills.

The extra Lottery funding, which aims to “bring people together in safe and secure ways and help people to feel more connected within their communities”, means that we can add to the donations (keep them coming please!) and buy propagation equipment to grow a range of plants for different situations – Lewes House Garden, windowsills, front door steps, gardens of people self-isolating and even to cheer up the Covid19 vaccination tents. An appeal for greenhouse space in the town to grow on seedlings led to two generous offers of unused greenhouse space and people willing to help tend the growing plants, further expanding the community network.

“We don’t know what shape the Lewes House Garden project will take as we move into spring and summer. We hope the group sessions in the garden will resume but it seems likely we’ll also continue with gardening visits for a while yet” said Anne-Marie Bur. If you, or someone you know, might appreciate gardening visits or you would like to know more about our gardening group sessions please do get in touch.

For more information visit www.commoncause.org.uk/leweshousegarden

or email: [email protected]


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