The Happy Wanderers – Foundry Wharf, St. Helens

Foundry Wharf is a residential block for ages 55+ located in St. Helens, and is home to the members of one of our Healthy Walk groups. Healthy Walks are a way to get people of all ages and abilities more active and connected with nature.

Chris, who runs the group, encourages members to take photos when walking, specifically focusing on colours and textures that can visually demonstrate how that person may feel in the space. This allows participants to be creative and mindful if they wish to be, or they may just want to take a nice photo of their surroundings. The images within this blog were all taken by this group on their local walks.

As Foundry Wharf was a new development complete during the pandemic, many residents joined the group to meet people. Some lived alone, whilst others were carers and hoped to find a place where they could be themselves.

“This group has given me back my identity and it has made me much more active. I wouldn’t go out for walks before alone, but now I have people to go with.”

“We’d never met as a group before but after starting the walks we have the confidence to approach others”

“I first started a bit apprehensive but now I have great friends.”

“I used to be very shy but now I’m much more relaxed, feel chilled out and share connections with others.”

The group became so close over time, that they gave themselves the name “the happy wanderers”.

“We have a community room we meet in after the walks. We’re all on the same level despite being a mixed group.”

As well as making friends, some group members also learned new skills, whilst others re-engaged with them.

“I used to enjoy photography but lost my passion, but these groups have helped me get back into it. I love taking pictures and being creative now.”

Participants also expressed how they feel closer to nature now as well as other people.

“Nature has been a huge part of making this enjoyable. I notice things a lot more now, I’m much more aware of my surroundings.”

“It’s a brilliant group, we’re still going to be friends in the future with more talking and walking!”

Healthy Walks are a great way to reduce isolation as they bring people together. Walking is also one of the best forms of exercise and is known to benefit both the mind and body. However, if walking doesn’t appeal to you but you’d like to connect with people and nature a different way, the Natural Health Service has many other activities that you can get involved with for free. For more information on this, check out our activities section here https://www.nature4health.org.uk/?page_id=5!

All quotations used are from “The Happy Wanderers”, Dec 2021.

Plot to Plate with the La Salle Kitchen Gardeners.

The last few months of 2021 introduced a new project at the La Salle Kitchen Garden in Croxteth. Our partners at Faiths4Change who run these Nature4Health sessions saw a need to help educate the garden’s participants further on how to use the fresh produce collected. This is known as the ‘Plot to Plate’ group.

This new group of 7 participants worked together on both managing the garden and learning new skills together. With a growing confidence in gardening and strong rewards of fresh fruit and veg, there was often lots of good produce harvested. At La Salle, there is a huge variety of produce despite the size of the garden and team who work on it weekly. This includes beans, onions, brassicas and even melons!

The aim of the ‘Plot to Plate’ group was to enable more participants to feel confident in cooking with this fresh food. So far, the group have created and shared 11 plant-based meals, all made from the produce they have harvested together. This has encouraged the group to learn new skills such as cooking, weeding, overwintering crops and making compost. ‘Plot to Plate’ has also encouraged the group to be more adventurous with food by inventing their own combinations, and feel more connected with where their food comes from.

As well as adopting a taste for healthy, plant-based recipes, the group have also benefited socially. One participant hoped for a local activity to fill their free-time, whereas another, who had recently moved to Liverpool, aimed to meet new people and find a near-by hobby.

Attending to La Salle Kitchen Garden has enabled a diverse mix of individuals to become friends. This has particularly benefitted two individuals who have bonded over the unfortunate event of losing a loved one recently. They now enjoy meeting outside of the group too.

The future is bright for this small yet brilliant group, with one member adopting a ‘Plot to Plate’ plant-based recipe book using photos taken from each session.

If you would like to meet new people, adopt a healthier lifestyle or simply fill your time, sessions at La Salle take place each Wednesday over the course of 12-weeks between the hours of 12:30 – 3 pm. The next course is due to begin in February, 2022 although a current course is presently ongoing.

We’re always looking for new participants so why not join for the new year! Sessions are completely free and require no experience in either cooking or gardening! Please contact Elizabeth via email at Elizabeth.Mason@merseyforest.org.uk or Rhianna at Rhianna.Weston@merseyforest.org.uk for more information or if interested.

St. Michael in the City: Crystal

Our Nature4Health programme aims to improve our participants’ lives. Whilst we may not be able to solve everything, we often hear of and see our participants’ successes, whether this be an improvement in their social life or their health and fitness. However, some participants have even found new careers after attending our groups.

Having recently accepted employment at St. Michael’s garden, Crystal shared her success story with us.

Crystal began her adventure with a few potted indoor plants. Despite the many struggles most of us face when caring for plants, Crystal persevered and taught herself some tips and tricks.

Yet with a growing interest in gardening, and a passion for self-sufficiency and sustainability, Crystal decided to reach out to Myerscough College where she was first introduced to St. Michael in the City. Many other participants attend Myerscough College with Crystal, and St. Michael’s has given them all a space where they can put their new skills into practice.

Impressively, Crystal now manages to work three jobs: each fitting an interest of hers. However, she has just taken on the role of Creative Projects Worker at St. Michael’s to challenge herself. Crystal chooses to tackle everything with positivity, and collaboratively running the weekly sessions has made her feel happier, as well as a sense of achievement.

Crystal describes the garden as a wonderful place full of laughter and stories, where strong relationships are created.

“There really is something magical and compelling about the garden and the kind of people that it attracts.”

Like most of us, the importance of connecting with others is no longer over-looked and is greatly treasured.

“The pandemic has had some sort of effect on everyone, and during lock-down people found ways to keep busy. For some, gardening was a way to handle that stress, to stay present and to find gratitude. People started re-evaluating their lives. The garden has bought so much joy. It is a place to share and laugh, and that is priceless.”

Other than benefitting her health and wellbeing, Crystal has learned new skills, and continues doing so the more she works at St. Michael’s. Other volunteers are now great friends of hers, and they all help one another with various tasks in the garden, from building plant beds to crop maintenance.

“Being around people who share the same goal and ideas, what’s not to love? My mental health comes first, and I already try and do different things to help with that: yoga, meditation, guitar. The garden was just an add on bonus which aided to that; a special haven bang in the middle of the city!”

Why not see for yourself how getting involved can benefit you? Check out our website’s ‘Get Involved‘ and ‘Activities‘ sections for more details!

St. Michael’s in the city: Bertha

In the Baltic Triangle, Liverpool, great progress has been made at St. Michael in the City’s community garden. This group is led by our partners at Faiths4Change, and is proudly funded by The National Lottery.

St. Michael’s is another great example of how beneficial our programme can be to so many individuals; not to mention how beneficial you all are to our Nature4Health Programme!

Bertha has attended St. Michael’s garden since June, so is fairly new to the group. Despite this, Bertha has always lived in the area, and once worked as a Sunday school teacher at St. Michael’s church.

Now retired, Bertha decided to find a new hobby to fill her time and meet new people. Her previous career as a mental health support worker showed Bertha how spending time in green space can vastly improve your wellbeing.

“I saw the benefits it had on others when I used to take my group to a community garden in Walton. I thought it would help me too.”

Bertha couldn’t believe the paradise that was on her doorstep.

“It’s the best thing I’ve done! It gets me up and out of the house, and I’m genuinely excited to learn new things and see my friends each week here at the garden. We always have a good laugh.”

Like many of our participants, Bertha has seen great improvements in multiple areas of her life after joining the group. After all, it’s never too late to meet new people, learn fresh skills and improve your health!

If, like Bertha, you’d like to take on a new hobby and live in either Merseyside or North Cheshire, please contact Clare Olver via Clare.Olver@merseyforest.org.uk for more details on our various volunteer groups. There’s something for everyone!

St. Margaret’s: Roger

We love to hear how these sessions are benefitting you. We know that our participants are likely to feel or experience some kind of improvement, but to listen to your stories first-hand really boosts the value of our National Lottery funded Nature4Health programme.

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of talking to Roger at the Hope Community Garden. Roger is now retired, but has continued to volunteer his time for many years at various charities and organisations. Additionally, he spends a few hours a week at St. Margaret’s and helps this group continue to revive the space.

Roger has always had a great respect and interest for nature, yet he explained he notices everything, no matter how small, more.

“Even a small insect I now notice, and it’s not till you notice that you really understand how complex and intriguing nature is.”

Roger worked as a gardener for many years in the 1980s, and these skills have certainly come in handy when initially clearing the site. However, the Gardening4All sessions ran by Nina have broadened Roger’s knowledge.

“I’d garden for people, but I only know now how to plant and when to water certain crops. I have really learned a lot, and still continue to.”

Roger first joined these sessions after volunteering at a heritage open day at the church. He met Nina and Jen, the leaders of Hope Community Garden, and immediately said “yes!” to taking part in the 12-week programme.

Like all of our great participants, Roger’s time spent volunteering at St. Margaret’s has had its setbacks. Although, the Hope Community Garden group have definitely managed to make the most of what they could, even in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When things started up again, we were split into two small groups each week. And when the weather was bad and we were allowed indoors, we’d spend the sessions creating flyers and collaborating ideas for the garden. My idea was to create a peace garden.”

The peace garden Roger sought for would feature snowdrops and cherry blossom, as these symbolise hope and peace. Roger wanted to create a space where peace workers would feel appreciated, as well as a space for the local community to enjoy.

Roger’s enthusiasm is reflected onto many of our participants, and it’s refreshing to see a group of friends who are all of varying ages. With this, the groups’ cooperation and friendship have holistically improved each individual – whether it be those going into a new career, or those who are finished their working years but want to feed their passion for nature.