Earlier this year Sandy at Thrive emailed me asking if I would be happy to answer some questions regarding various aspects of the charity from a supporter’s point of view. I was but rather than reply by email she phoned me a few days later and we happily chatted for almost an hour. She asked if I’d been to any of their previous open days and when I said no she said that it would be nice to see me at one of this years. I’m not keen on driving far nowadays so I asked Christine and her husband John, respectively show secretary and chairman of the horticultural society, if they like to go to one and would John drive. They said yes and yesterday lunchtime we headed off to the Thrive Trunkwell Garden Project at Beech Hill near Reading. On arrival we met Sandy for a quick chat before she introduced us to her colleague Neil who she’d asked to give us a guided tour.
The Garden Project is set in a Victorian walled garden covering 3 acres next to Thrive’s head office. Each year the therapists work with more than 100 disabled people, aged between 14 and over 80. The garden is designed to help gardeners develop their skills with a variety of plants and has areas for growing flowers, fruit, herbs and vegetables. There are various gardens, a glasshouse and polytunnels, a shop selling plants and more.
Neil showed us round the gardens – secret, woodland, herb, triangle, potager, cottage, oriental and Chelsea – as well as the allotment field, client plots, pond and five small gallery gardens each of which is designed round a specific disability showing how design and planting can meet those needs. We frequently stopped to admire features, flowers, fruit, plants, trees and vegetables with Neil telling us about each area.
This is the view from the Triangle garden looking towards the main building.
I turned to my left to take this one of the glasshouse beyond the client’s plots, the pink flowers in the foreground are Snapdragons (antirrhinum majus).
There are over fifty client plots, each about a square metre, creating a garden patchwork of wonderful colour and diversity. I’m sure that some of the pot marigolds are Flighty’s favourites as I sent them some saved seeds early in the year. There are benches all round the gardens, some of which are almost hidden from view. This impressive stone one wasn’t, and is in the Oriental garden.
In one of the Gallery gardens this small pond and children’s proper watering cans caught my eye.
We thanked Neil for the tour then went to enjoy a cup of tea and chocolate cake, where Sandy rejoined us for another chat.
There was a real sense of tranquillity in these gardens helped by the brick walls and mature trees just beyond them. The surrounding areas are all countryside with only a few buildings or houses visible, nor is there any noise from roads. These are not show gardens but working and productive areas so they do look a bit messy and untidy in places but I’m sure that’s how most of our gardens or plots look at times. Not surprisingly the gardens are wildlife friendly as shown by a big clump of sprawling lavender outside the entrance to the main building which was buzzing with bees, and the pond is home to Great Crested Newts which are a protected species, so only gets cleaned and tidied once a year. I’m told that the Loch Ness monster’s blue relative is friendly!
Thrive’s volunteers make a significant contribution but perhaps some people don’t realise that, nor do they get mentioned as often as they should. I briefly spoke to two who clearly enjoyed what they do. I admire them and if I lived nearby I’d certainly be one.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and meeting Sandy and Neil to find out more about Thrive , which is a wonderful gardening charity doing such good work.
Have a good weekend!