Check out our podcasts themed around nature and well-being.
In the first one, Christina takes us through a meditation in nature, with useful techniques to connect us with the natural environment and with our own bodies as a way to de-stress and become more mindful.
The Mother Gardens and well-being podcast, Felipe talks about the benefits of having a Mother Garden and of being involved in community Mother garden projects. He visits Mother Garden sites and speaks to volunteers about the mental health benefits of working with nature.
Calling a garden, a Mother Garden, comes from the idea of a plant being a mother
plant that propagates, producing seeds and new plants from this original plant.
Similarly, a Mother Garden is a garden that grows plants which are then distributed to
other people and their gardens, in the form of seeds or young plants. So it is a garden that helps create new gardens. Anybody can
have a Mother Garden, in their own garden, allotment, nursery, and even their window box. Or they can join a Mother
Garden from The Birmingham Mother Garden Network.
How is Spring to Life involved with Mother Gardens?
Mother Gardens is a project developed by Spring to Life, initially out of another project called Food Forest Brum. Originally the idea was for Mother Gardens to support Food Forest Brum by getting communities producing edible plants to go into public spaces. Yet it later became more about the sharing process itself and mutual aid. From this, came out The Birmingham Mother Gardens Network, where community groups and food growing projects are coming together to share plants and resources within their own communities and across communities.
Spring to Life has been running its own Mother Garden at it’s allotment in Bearwood. This site is a well-being space involving various groups including people with mental health problems, and refugees.
From time to time we adapt the Mother Gardens model to suit the
different needs in our communities. For example, we have worked with refugees and asylum seekers,
helping them learn about how to have their own Mother Garden and connect them to local food projects (Click here for more details on the Gaining Ground initiative). This in turn has supported them to become more rooted in the community, where they also share knowledge of plants and gardening from their own cultures.
Spring to Life’s main aim is to promote wellbeing alongside learning new skills for health and enjoyment. This has been experienced by people in the
past year with our Home Grow initiative, a Mother Gardens sub-project which has supported over 650 vulnerable
households across Birmingham to grow food at home during the pandemic. Through Big Lottery funding this was delivered by The Birmingham Mother Gardens Network. 14 Mother Garden hubs across the city connected to households in their neighboorhoods, sharing plants, seeds, materials and knowledge on gardening.
How does being a Mother Garden and growing your own vegetables promote wellbeing?
Ultimately, it promotes a sense of community by people sharing their plants, seeds and their knowledge. Members feel supported and have a connection with others through a shared interest. What people do in their own gardens can have a positive impact on others. This idea of contributing to the well-being of other people has been shown to have immense value to one’s own mental health
Our Home Grow project not only helped people learn a new skill but also gave them a sense of purpose, taking their mind away from the difficulties in the past year. It also helped many families to bond through a shared activity.
How can people get involved?
People can sign up their own garden as a Mother Garden, and become a member of the Birmingham Mother Garden Network. We can then keep them updated on any upcoming projects, events and workshops. They can also get involved in an existing Mother Garden in their area.
For those already involved in community gardening in their neighbourhood, we can advise on how to develop their own Mother Garden hub connecting people in their neighbourhood. There are many great examples of local people already doing this.
What are the added benefits of gardening?
Being outdoors in the fresh air, and seeing things grow from a seed into a fully grown plant can a very fulfilling experience. The excercise that people get from gardening is also very beneficial.
How can people get in touch if they would like more information about the gardening projects run by Spring to Life or about becoming a member of a Mother Garden?
Phone or text: 07980272940
Testimonials. What people got most out of gardening and being linked with Mother Gardens during Covid:
‘Meeting my social needs at community events and making new friends within my community. Being able to get out of the house in a pandemic and still attend events with others in a social distanced manner when most other hobbies/community events are not able to run a they are indoors.
‘Being taught the skills and given support and knowledge to garden. Being given the equipment to garden. The social aspect of learning with others.’
‘I think this project can be very useful in helping everyone to understand how our world of food works as well as giving nature a helping hand.’
‘Given me a focus throughout Covid and something to look forward to with the growth of plants and community sessions. Meeting my social needs at community events and making new friends within my community.’
Check out Felipe’s podcast on Mother Gardens and Well-being:
A journal can be used to find your voice, to share your thoughts, emotions, feelings,
ideas, inspirations, reflect, explore possibilities and rant.
A journal can be your best friend, a confidant even your therapist, or your supporting
self where you pose questions to your mind, body and soul, understanding yourself
There are many ways you can use a journal and all is individual. There are those
who like to write and document their day. There are those who write poems, doodle
They can be written in beautiful journals or in an old scrap book. Personally, I have a
few different books, note- books, art paper and even my phone and lap top.
Sometimes recording a poem helps to integrate the meaning, sometimes all that is
needed is the process of writing.
Sometimes, it is for myself, sometimes it is an idea to share. All relevant as what we
write is from ourselves and it is never wrong. Sometimes, of course it is best to keep
private to reflect on and to allow to germinate and grow into the idea thought
emotion, plan, future you desire.
Following are some examples if you are new to journaling to try
Draw adding words
Poems that rhyme and don’t rhyme
Drawing cartoons with captions
Music, lyrics, rap
The way you set up your journal is up to you.
Below are some ideas:
Design the outside with your name and things that you like
The first page write/draw the year adding your dreams and intentions
Use a double page; left for drawing the right for adding words
Date the page
Title the theme
I like to have a beautiful journal for my thoughts and musings, where poems may
appear or just a documentation of my thoughts about the day. I have an art book
where I express emotions that have no words yet, through art, collage. This
stimulates the subconscious and adding prose and words becomes easier. For
ranting I use a note- book where I can write unedited and unashamedly then tear it
up and symbolically throw away the chatter in my mind. If it is something that needs
attention whilst I am on the lap top I will open a document and write without stopping
to read. Sometimes, I save it for later or sometimes I delete.
As one of my clients says,
‘when you print it out on paper you see it in black and white for what it is, as
sometimes you cannot see it because the mind is so cluttered with other stuff.’
‘Once I write it down, I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I feel
I can breathe again.’
Christina is an author and Writing for Wellbeing practitioner, using the power of writing to help people feel better from the past and re-create their lives. Christina uses expressive writing techniques such as poetry, metaphor, journaling and unsent letters. She combines scientific knowledge with her own and other’s experiences of how expressive writing can assist with psychological and physical healing.
Christina writes and runs workshops and works one to one for non- profit organisations and her private practice. She has used these techniques with cancer patients, MS and ME sufferers and is currently running a course at Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS trust. Christina is researching how early childhood trauma impacts our mental and physical health, through the lifetime and how ‘writing our story’, can help re-create our lives. Her background is in counselling and psychology and works freelance as a teaching assistant in primary schools.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ― Anaïs Nin.
Home Grow -Edible Resilience for communities in Birmingham
Responding to the struggles that people have been facing due to Covid 19 and the lockdown, Spring to Life’s Mother gardens project received funding from The National Lottery and Heart of England Community Foundation, to support people to grow food and develop garden spaces at home as a way to aid positive mental well-being, stay active and connect with others.
Being a network, Mother gardens project is working with a number of organisations and food growing initiatives from around the city to deliver this scheme. These groups and their sites are Mother garden hubs which will offer households in their own localities advice, plants and seeds, and opportunities to connect with their community.
During the crisis of the last six months, we have seen a sharp increase in people’s interest in gardening and nature. With a large majority of people stuck at home, people have turned to their gardens as a space of comfort to help manage their well-being. We have also seen an emergence of a culture of solidarity with people in communities looking out for one another. The Mother gardens project aims to take advantage of these two new trends, through the ‘Home Grow’ scheme.
As part of this scheme we also aim to help people connect with other green spaces out in the community run by these local mother garden hubs. These connections between community groups and households then have the potential to last beyond the lockdown.
The best way to register/get involved is to get in touch with your local hub:
This summer and through the autumn to winter 2020 we are providing ‘restorative’ sessions for 11 – 13 year olds following any trauma they may have experienced due to Covid and lock down.
In with the Trees is part of a wider programme funded and supported by Living Well UK (0121 663 1217), where each child is allocated a therapist who designs a bespoke programme with and for the young person. Options for sessions include Sports, Writing for Well-being and Nature Therapy.
In with the Trees are our Spring to Life sessions run as one off sessions aimed at young people who would like to explore nature and together we will find out what we can learn from trees!
Trees grow from tiny seeds, into saplings, into young trees and finally into huge strong structures. They survive out in all weathers, seasons and withstand many conditions.
By attending the ‘In with the Trees’ session we will help the young person to consider their own qualities, identities and strengths which all contribute towards restoration and recovery.
In with the Trees – A Nature Therapy Session
Trees stand up in all weathers ‘come rain or shine’. We will meet the young people at the entrances of Highbury Park, Kings Heath, or Deers Leap Wood, Edgbaston, and take them on an experiential journey around a nature area. Taking time to reflect and notice the environment and compare ourselves to the qualities trees have.
We will notice nature’s patterns, search for things, make nature art, start a personal journal, learn to breath and relax, share stories around a camp circle. The young person can join in with as much as they feel able to.
If you want to know more call Philippa Allenby on 07967 119 839.