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Sadness at closure of mental health project at popular nature reserve

Friday 8th July

Sadness at closure of mental health project at popular nature reserve

The award-winning Recovery project, based at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s Idle Valley Nature Reserve, is to finish at the end of this month due to loss of funding. The project, which is open to anyone in Bassetlaw with mental health issues, maintains the vegetable garden at the Idle Valley and has been providing the café in the visitor centre with quantities of juicy strawberries to rival Wimbledon. The far-from-Idle bees have also been productive and jars of honey have been flying off the shelves in the shop.

The current volunteers hope to continue to maintain the garden beyond the end of the project, and to harvest tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, beans, courgettes and much more, enabling the kitchen to continue using super-fresh ingredients for the rest of the growing season. They also hope, in time, to set up a new independent organisation which will once again provide a valuable service to the local mental health professionals who have referred people to the project in the knowledge that they would benefit from all it had to offer.

To mark the end of the project, a celebration is planned, on Wednesday 20th July between 11am and 2pm, with refreshments provided. Past and present volunteers will come together with mental health professionals, Wildlife Trust and others who have been involved over the years. Others with an interest in the project, and particularly anyone who may be able to help support a new organisation in the future, are also invited to attend.

Those close to the project are experiencing sadness and regret.

Michelle Farmer said: “The Idle Valley Recovery project is a special place you can find solace, respite, purpose, escape, a supportive network and yourself! I would be extremely distressed if it were to close. John O’Shea says: It feels like I’m losing a family member and its really upsetting.”

Jill Naidoo, a retired GP and support volunteer with the project for the past four years, says:

“There is a growing evidence base that participating in meaningful plant-related activities in groups (Social and Therapeutic Horticulture) promotes mental and physical wellbeing. Indeed, the recent King’s Fund report (2016) on gardens and health recognises the benefits of this approach, recommending that Public Health England, Clinical Commissioning Groups, the NHS and local government should work together to make this happen.”

Dominic Schad, Recovery Project leader, is determined to look beyond the end of the current project to ensure that it does not spell the end of service delivery. He says:

The loss of Recovery’s funding is a minor disaster, but its permanent closure would have a much greater impact. If we look back over the last six years of operation, we can see six years of developing and delivering good practice, even excellence! We’ve improved the soil fertility in the garden at Idle Valley; our bees now pollinate the crops and wildflowers for miles around; we’ve developed a substantial referral network with the health professionals of Bassetlaw who rely on us as a service provider; we’ve won awards. But most importantly, we’ve helped so many people in their personal journeys – sometimes to education, sometimes to employment, or just generally to improved mental and physical health. Recovery’s not been without its shortcomings or structural difficulties and its Achilles’ heel has always been its short-term funding. Now I’m determined to address the issues full on, to not allow all those achievements to be thrown away, and plan to start an little independent charity with big ambitions! We already have in place the basis of a fantastic and dedicated team willing to take the new project forward with the support of the Wildlife Trust."

Speaking on behalf of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Rob Fitzsimmons said: “We are proud of what we have achieved during the Recovery Project and we hope that a way can be found that means our amazing nature reserve and the wonderful garden can continue to benefit people with mental health issues. We are keen to work with Dominic to find a sustainable long-term option for delivery.”

Anyone interested in knowing more about the event on 20th July should email Dominic Schad (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Anyone who might be able to contribute ideas, support, funding or time to the efforts to continue this work should contact either Rob Fitzsimons or Erin McDaid on 0115 958 8241.

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