Horticultural therapy in Reading – a feature on the Ridgeline Trust

Simone Illger
Author's position
Community Journalist
Article date
4 October 2018
Primary interest
Hobbies and Leisure
On a sunny morning recently, RVA’s Community Journalist Simone Illger visited the Ridgeline Trust’s garden project

The Ridgeline Trust offers horticultural therapy opportunities to people living with either physical or learning disabilities or a mental health issue. Situated just off Whiteknights Road, on the edge of the University campus, Reading residents may have walked, cycled or driven past without knowing such a peaceful and beautiful spot is hidden just the other side of the hedge.

History of the garden

Fifteen years ago, the garden – the former paddock of Mockbeggar House – was a small piece of waste land, overgrown with brambles. Local residents took over the land from Reading Borough Council for a peppercorn rent. The project was spearheaded by a local pharmacist who, through the course of her work, could envision the health and wellbeing benefits that horticultural therapy could offer to some of her regular pharmacy customers.

The garden today

Today, dedicated volunteers work directly with clients, and also work to maintain the garden in between therapy sessions. Plants and seeds come from a mixture of donations, cuttings and purchases. Two part-time Horticultural Therapists work with each client to set their activities and individual goals. These vary according to the client and may be quite structured or extremely flexible, according to the individual’s needs.

The Ridgeline Trust have plenty of willing and enthusiastic volunteers, and are currently in a position to welcome more clients. They are currently open for three sessions a week, and have fifteen clients who attend one or two sessions. They want to expand to six sessions a week, supporting up to ten people at each session. Each session lasts for two hours.

Benefits of gardening

Spending time in the garden means leaving the phone and computer screen behind, becoming totally immersed in whatever tasks need undertaking, and enjoying the smells, sights and sounds of nature. It offers many benefits: physical activity, working as part of a team, socialising, improving self-esteem, learning new skills and feeling a sense of achievement. Being outside – raking leaves, mowing grass, planting seeds, harvesting fruit and vegetables – can provide a huge amount of enjoyment, and help people to feel restored and energised. No previous experience of gardening is required to take part in the Trust’s garden project, and involvement can take take whatever form best suits clients.

Siân Hooley, Ridgeline Trust’s Development Manager, encourages anyone who may be interested in finding out more to get in touch and arrange to take a look around the garden themselves.

Find out more

The garden is open on Mondays, from 9.30am to 2pm, and Tuesdays, from 9.30am to 3pm. There’s always someone in the garden at those times, so feel free to pop by, take a look at what’s going on, and enjoy a cup of tea and an informal chat.

You can also get in touch with Siân Hooley, Ridgeline Trust’s Development Manager, by emailing sian@ridgelinetrust.org.uk or calling or texting 07535 636 018. The Trust’s website is www.ridgelinetrust.org.uk.