WaCoCo promotes the social and economic wellbeing of the people Waterloo by supporting the sustainability and effectiveness of local community and voluntary organisations through drawing in funding, encouraging local partnerships and networks, and increasing their voice on local issues.

Therapeutic - and flourishing - Friday afternoon gardening club sessions take place at Archbishop's Park

' Love Lambeth' reports that a friendly gardening group in Archbishop’s Park has been improving the physical and mental health of Lambeth residents for the last six years.  Run by the Friends of Archbishop’s Park, the group's Friday afternoon sessions offer a two-fold benefit: improving both the Park and the physical and mental health of participating Lambeth residents.

Helen Lees, Chair of Friends of Archbishop's Park and the driving force behind the gardening group, explains how it all started.  “I’m a local. I’ve lived next to the Park – which itself is next to Lambeth Palace and St Thomas’ hospital – for 21 years. Thirteen years ago the Park was pretty neglected.  After volunteering for a few gardening tasks, I found myself elected Chair – and have been ever since!  The Park is so different now – and I hope it’s for the better:  we’ve done many things including creating new gardens, an orchard, apiary, wildlife meadow and pond.”

“Our gardening club started about six years ago when we were making raised beds to grow vegetables. Someone from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust mental health services happened to see us and suggested introducing a few people who were working with him on a totally different project.  He thought they might enjoy the outdoors.  They really liked digging and growing and before long we had a regular group.”

Helen adds, “Sessions are relaxed and people come here for a bit of peace away from the daily bustle. In a busy, noisy city such as London it’s important to have green spaces to enjoy and relax within. We start with a cup of something and share news, then pruning, planting or general tidying up.  Sometimes there’s veg or herbs to harvest and in the Autumn there are apples!  Group members comment how relaxing gardening can be, how beneficial it is to be outside in the fresh air and how their mood has improved by meeting others and doing something useful for the community.”

Helen finishes by outlining her plans for the Group's future development - adding a plea for new people to consider joining.  “For the future, we are developing an allotment on the land next door so we can grow more veg and soft fruit, and maybe a polytunnel and/or greenhouse would be a bonus, giving us greater variety and a longer growing season. It’s all possible. The more people who get involved, the more possibilities there are.  We’re looking for new members to meet every Friday 2pm – 4pm.”

Please call Helen Lees 07981 908919 if you want to find out more.