This year, our urban gardens in the grounds of St. Leonard’s Church will be raising a Green Flag Award.

The gardens sit right at the heart of SCT, surrounded by our Training and Development centre, the Residential Recovery Programme, our two social enterprises, and one of our homeless drop-ins.

Students, volunteers, and other members of our recovery community maintain the gardens throughout the year. As well as offering a tranquil green space for the public, the gardening project provides training and experience for people in recovery from addictions and complex mental health needs.

“Gardening is all about turning over a new leaf – or leaves, as we have so many. It’s a chance for new growth.” – A gardening volunteer in recovery from addiction.

Beyond the practical benefits, the gardening course is a vital part of our students’ recovery journeys. Our Gardening Tutor and Horticultural Therapist, Julia, teaches new skills to our students, many of whom have never tried gardening before.

Working in the garden was more like play than work. I found I could just lose myself in each moment. I never felt more fully connected with the world, with creation.” – A gardening student.

Sowing, planting, and nurturing are powerful metaphors for the experience of healing and growth, and this is especially true in terms of the time it takes to see results in both recovery and gardening; it teaches patience.

Working in the garden at Shoreditch gives me a great sense of peace and fulfilment when I am totally involved in a project. This feeling doesn’t happen anywhere else right in the centre of London.” – A gardening volunteer and former resident.

No seed left behind

Reflecting on a difficult year, the garden team remembers sowing sweet pea seeds in October and January, and managing to get the seedlings planted just before lockdown hindered their work. Seeing all the sweet peas bloom into wigwams of beautiful fragrant flowers was uplifting for the team as well as the local people who came to use the gardens during lockdown.

When lockdown was announced, Julia made every effort to ensure that all the students, volunteers, and plants were taken care of.

I gave tomato and chilli seedlings to anyone who had a patch of land to put them in. The rest of the seedlings I brought home and put them in my bedroom – it made getting into bed a bit tricky. Then I went back to the St Leonard’s garden at the right time and put them in the new veg beds.

 I also did a lot of telephone gardening, and one early morning made a mad dash to a move-on house to show someone at a distance how to train tomatoes.” – Julia, Gardening Tutor

Parks and green spaces across the country will be raising their Green Flag Award with pride in a year when millions of people have seen the value of having great quality green spaces on their doorstep.

Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE comments: “This year, more than ever, our parks and green spaces have been a lifeline and we know that millions of people have used them to relax, meet friends, exercise or simply escape for a short time.

“It is testament to the incredible dedication and hard work of parks staff and volunteers that, despite the challenges that went along with record numbers of visitors, St. Leonard’s Gardens has achieved the highest international standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.”

The Green Flag Award scheme recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for their management across the United Kingdom and around the world.

We are proud to raise our flag once more in St. Leonard’s Gardens.

Thank you to Keep Britain Tidy and the Green Flag Awards, and to all those who have given their time to keep the garden growing.

To support SCT and our gardens through this difficult time please see here for more information.