Council bosses are hoping to tackle social isolation in Mansfield in a unique way – by setting up a community garden.
The garden has been created at the council’s Bull Farm allotments, off Shaftesbury Avenue, as part of the authority’s strategy to improve its residents’ health, wellbeing and lifestyles.
The scheme is being run in partnership with Feel Good Gardens, a community interest company based at Sherwood Pines, and the council’s Housing department.
It is hoped it will particularly help older men “who often suffer from loneliness and social isolation”.
Councillor Barry Answer, council portfolio holder for housing, said: “We are hoping this community garden will improve the lives of local people, both by providing exercise and the chance to meet new people, and also in healthier eating.
“What could be better for you than growing your own free organic fruit and vegetables?
“Social isolation and loneliness can literally be killers and they are especially common among older men, leading to poor physical and mental health and a higher risk of disability, as well as poor recovery from illness, and even early death.
“Men often find it more difficult to talk about their problems and the aim of community gardens are to provide places where people can come together, share skills and develop a sense of purpose and achievement.”
Clare Heyting, Feel Good Gardens’ horticultural ranger, said: “This is therapeutic horticulture in a friendly accessible and supportive space.
“It has long been known gardening is a really healthy pastime – both physically and mentally. Just being outside in the fresh air with other people is good for you.
“We help bring people together to plant and care for the garden and we can even run occasional cookery demonstrations which help the gardeners learn how to use the produce they have grown.
“We hope it will appeal to people who want to develop a new hobby, become healthier, and meet like-minded people.
“The advantage of it being communal allotment means it is less daunting than having the responsibility of taking on an entire allotment. It is a fun and easy way to access nature and the green spaces on your doorstep.”
Weekly “work parties” on Wednesdays, from 10.30am to 2.30pm, began this month guided by Feel Good Gardens and people are being encouraged to turn up and grab a spade.
The council hopes to expand the scheme and open other community gardens in other parts of the district in the future.