Gardening has been proven to boost mental and physical health. When a lack of local perinatal support for women living with anxiety and low mood was identified in Slough, it led a midwifery team to create an allotment project to encourage pregnant and new mums to grow and cultivate vegetables.

In an area where a large number of families live in high rise buildings with limited access to outside space, the project was an opportunity to encourage mums to spend time outdoors. Having access to this space quickly proved to help the mums’ mental and physical wellbeing but it was clear the support could be developed even further.

When the midwives’ NHS Foundation Trust approached Home-Start Slough to take on the project, the charity enlisted their home visiting volunteers, so that every mum had individual one-to-one support.

Jahseen Foster is one of the mums who is part of the allotment project. Jahseen was referred to the project when she was pregnant with her son. She explains:

“I love spending time outdoors but I’ve no nice outside  space where I live. Going to Home-Start’s allotment group with other pregnant women became a sanctuary for me. I love planting and it felt so good to be outside in the fresh air.

At first I was so ill and weak, I needed someone to help me with planting and weeding. I was matched with Liz, a Home-Start volunteer. Liz is very knowledgeable about gardening and taught me so much. She is so gentle and understanding.

When she saw I was struggling to kneel she’d bring equipment to make it easier. With Liz’s support the allotment became my safe place. Soon I was going almost every other day.

Everything I put my hands on just bloomed. When I planted those very first seeds I was isolated and depressed. As those seeds grew my depression and isolated lessened. Going to the allotment turned everything around for me. Mentally, emotionally, physically and socially – the allotment group changed my life.

When I had my son I brought him to the allotment to meet Liz. It felt like a fitting place to introduce her to my son. Liz and the allotment helped me to get through a difficult pregnancy and navigate the new world of being a mum. As their plants and vegetables have grown, so too has their confidence”.

Sarah Harris, Home-Start Slough’s Allotment Volunteer Co-ordinator explains how the project empowers women through building up friendships and connecting with nature to improve their emotional and physical wellbeing.

“The allotment project encourages the women to spend time outdoors and connect with nature. They are each supported by a volunteer who can explain to them about what to plant, but most importantly they’re there to listen.

Most of the women we support have never gardened before. Some are domestic abuse survivors, some struggle with mental health issues and some feel anxious about being a new mum. Planting a seed and helping it to grow feels incredibly empowering. As their plants and vegetables have grown, so too has their confidence. It’s been wonderful to see the change in the mums as they connect with each other and realise how much they’re capable of".

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