Ecominds logo, with the Mind charity and National lottery logos


Where do you even start with this? “At the bottom … then work your way up” laughs Stuart, a member of the team converting overgrown derelict land behind Orb into a new garden. The project is part of the Mind Ecominds programme which ‘helps people with experience of mental distress get involved in local environmental projects that improve mental and physical health.’

Four of us are stood in the corner of a large area of overgrown land behind Orb, littered with rubble, kitchen sinks and other domestic rubbish. As raindrops soak our heads and make small streams running a course down our necks, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the size of the task ahead, but Mick (Orb’s gardener) is upbeat:

“It’s a blank canvas really, it’s nice to be involved with something at the beginning.”

Mick works twelve hours a week in the garden with help from volunteers Mick and Stuart whenever they can spare some time. He’s been gardening for over fifteen years, has an NVQ from Askham Bryan Horticultural College and experience working with organisations like Horticap.

“I’ve always worked with charities and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love gardening too, it’s very therapeutic by nature with the added benefit of doing something that helps a charity.”

Rubbish lying on the floor on some waste ground

Mick and the team have their work cut out...

The gardening team is part of the larger Orb community: Mick the gardener takes part in Orb’s creative art classes and Mick the volunteer has guitar lessons in Orb’s fully kitted out rehearsal rooms.

Here’s the design for the garden, a three year project that starts with a good clear out, then fence building and landscaping this summer:

  • Social area: an outdoor place for Orb community members to meet, talk and socialise
  • Cultivation area: a place where seasonal fruit and vegetables will be grown (from summer 2011)
  • Wildlife area: hedges and other planting to encourage birds and insects to thrive

Susan, a member of the local Mental Health Forum, has been planning the Orb garden project after a chat with Mark who spoke about Orb’s plans to put the back yard to better use. It is her background in horticulture and teaching people with mental health support needs that is helping the plan to evolve:

“We want people to take ownership of the garden, for it to become a meaningful place for people.”

Orb community members are already getting involved, sharing their ideas and opinions about how the garden should look, in Susan’s words, it will “… become an extension of Orb, a part of it rather than separate.”

Both Mick the gardener and Susan spoke enthusiastically about the value a new garden can bring to Orb and how nature will promote positive mental health. Mick said it was planting seeds and watching them grow that first inspired him to take up gardening as therapy during one of life’s difficult periods. Susan too felt there were lessons to be learned from nature:

“Things die off in nature and sometimes look a bit lifeless, but then they come back, it puts life into perspective.”

Get involved with the Orb garden project

You don’t even have to be a gardener. We need volunteers to clear undergrowth, move debris and level out the soil. We want your help to create another safe, social and productive environment for our members to be creative and a place our local community can enjoy. You should contact us or leave a comment below to get involved.

This blog article was written by Chris Kenworthy: copywriter and photographer