Developing plants and seek after future From Swindon Advertiser Swindon Advertiser
“New life and fresh hope is budding at the TWIGS Community Gardens. Sue Bradley pays a visit.
SNOWDROPS are flowering in the TWIGS Community Gardens. These delicate white blooms push their way through the soil towards the end of every winter to herald the approaching spring; a tiny symbol of better things to come for people struggling to cope with their day to day lives.
In a week or so they will give way to nodding daffodils, followed by tulips, cherry blossom and, eventually, roses.
And so the seasons turn, the birds sing and TWIGS Community Gardens work their magic on yet more people in need of peace, beauty and the feeling of being closer to nature in order to help them make sense of an otherwise chaotic world.
TWIGS u2013 Therapeutic Work in Gardening in Swindon u2013 was set up 20 years ago to give people experiencing mental health problems the space to regain their confidence and self-esteem and learn new skills.
Situated on a former council amenity horticulture site in Cheney Manor, just down the road from Manor Garden Centre, its seven vibrant gardens are looked after by up to 80 or 90 u2018service usersu2019 under the care of a small team of staff who are assisted by around 30 volunteers, many of whom bring specialist skills such as woodworking and design. A range of crafts and activities, from willow coppicing and weaving to pot throwing, is also offered.
Over the years TWIGS has played a part in turning around the lives of hundreds of people, many of whom return from time to time to see how everything is looking and even roll up their sleeves to help keep the gardens looking beautiful.
At the same time the site welcomes scores of visitors who call by every week to enjoy the flowers and sculpture, use the fitness equipment and soak up the peace and tranquillity of this floral oasis on the edge of a busy industrial estate. Many come to glean ideas, whether itu2019s to make their own plots more wildlife-friendly, create cottage or Japanese-style areas, or fill certain spots with medicinal or edible plants. Some buy plants and craft items and several round off their time there with a pot of tea or bowl of soup at the Olive Tree Cafu00e9, a popular off shoot of the community gardens with its own vegetable patch thatu2019s run by Phyllida Richards and her team.
TWIGS service manager Alan Holland has been with the charity for several years and witnessed the way the gardens have developed and the impact theyu2019ve had on those looking after them.
u201cThe themed areas have evolved over the last 15 to 20 years and we have put together an extensive collection of trees, shrubs and pere
ials, so much so that we could be regarded as Swindonu2019s Botanical Gardens,u201d he laughs.
u201cThe emphasis of the garden is on encouraging people to engage with nature and gardening and creative activities. We have poly tu
els and glass houses, so thereu2019s always something we can be doing even if the weather is unpleasant.”