Television gardener pays visit to Borders mental health initiative

Carol Klein, third from left, during her visit to the Huntlyburn Ward.
Carol Klein, third from left, during her visit to the Huntlyburn Ward.

A gardening initiative aimed at aiding the treatment and recovery of Borderers with mental illnesses was given a celebrity seal of approval on Sunday.

Carol Klein, a main presenter on the BBC Two show Gardeners’ World since 2005, took time out ahead of a sell-out talk at this year’s Borders Book Festival to visit the Space to Grow project at the Huntlyburn Ward near Melrose.

The Greater Manchester-born 12-year-old was said to be “very impressed” by the transformation of waste ground adjacent to the 19-bed NHS Borders facility for acute mental health patients into a therapeutic garden and allotment.

Accompanied by festival director Alistair Moffat, the bestselling author met staff and patients during a tour of the greenhouse and planting beds.

She also heard how the project had helped boost the confidence and self-belief of patients.

Huntlyburn Ward charge nurse Richard Turnbull told the Southern: “We are all delighted with the progress of the project and the benefit that it has for patients.

“We are very grateful that Carol took time out from her busy schedule to come and visit us and pass on some of her gardening knowledge and wisdom.”

A spokesperson for NHS Borders said: “Even on this small scale, the uptake and impact of the Space to Grow project has been promising, with many patients wishing to volunteer in the garden after their discharge.

“This demonstrates how the project can encourage social inclusion and provide life skills and long-term benefit to patients.”

“However, the condition of the land means it is difficult to access for some patients and hard to maintain.

“The intention is to landscape the majority of the area so it has safe, accessible paths and defined areas for gardening as well as quiet reflection.

“Funding has been secured for the initial excavations and groundworks, and it is hoped money can now be raised for the paving of paths and the erection of raised planters.”

Volunteers prepared to help maintain the garden and share knowledge with patients and staff, or anyone wishing to donate to the project, are urged to call 01896 825542.