I’VE been inspired by Richard Mabey’s memoir Nature Cure in which he talks about how his recovery from depression was helped by the natural world which he says fired up the wild bits of his imagination.
Like me, he recognises that allotment gardening is much more than just growing some produce, describing allotments as “places where all manner of creatures, all kinds of eccentricities and obsessions, can find refuge and flourish”.
I recently spent a happy morning at Redhall Walled Garden in Edinburgh. Jan Cameron, Redhall’s team leader, explained that they aim to provide a safe environment where individuals can learn to deal with the challenges of recovering from mental health problems.
Horticultural training is just part of what they do. DIY skills are developed. Office skills and computer training are offered. Some trainee gardeners want to try their hand at growing their own fruit and vegetables. For them, there are individual long raised beds like mini-allotments.
Redhall is an astonishingly beautiful 18th-century walled garden tucked away off a busy main road in a glorious wooded setting. It’s so peaceful that I didn’t realise how close it is to a huge supermarket. Walking down the lane to the entrance, I entered a different world. Within the mellow brick walls, there’s a historic Palladian summerhouse presently used for tool storage, a huge greenhouse and a polytunnel.
Raised vegetable beds are a feature, filled high with compost which is made on a grand scale. Hedges divide the rest of the garden into themed areas which can be redeveloped from time to time. I spotted some splendid wooden benches made from reclaimed wood. Many of the plants that flourish here are propagated and offered for sale at very reasonable prices. Surplus compost is also for sale.
Visitors are welcome to drop by during weekday opening hours, but they also have special celebrations.
On my visit, I admired the beginnings of their handmade holly wreaths. Now complete, these are on sale at their Winter Magic event tomorrow between noon and 5pm. There will be live music, a snowman treasure trail, an opportunity to make a snow globe and the chance to enjoy cream teas by the warmth of a log fire. Away from the noisy bustle of the high street shops, I hope some of the remarkable atmosphere of this special place will wash off on you.
Redhall Walled Garden, 97 Lanark Road, Edinburgh, tel: 0131-443 0946