The National Garden Scheme is partnering with The National Autistic Society to promote gardening and health by giving grants to local branches.

Photograph of Denbighshire and Conwy BranchEvery year, the National Garden Scheme helps around 3,700 gardens to open their spaces to the public and raise vital funds and awareness for a number of charities through entry fees and the sale of teas and cakes. Founded in 1927, when individuals opened up their gardens for ‘a shilling a head’ to raise money for the district nursing organisation, this year they are celebrating their 90th birthday and raising over £50 million for their selected charities. 

This year, we are their newest charity partner. Our charity was chosen for the National Garden Scheme’s Gardening and Wellbeing Grant. The grant means we will be able to bring the significant benefits of cultivating and spending time in a beautiful garden to more autistic people and their families across the country. 

Alan Gardner, Channel 4's The Autistic Gardener and Cultural Ambassador of The National Autistic Society said, "Horticulture has so much to offer autistic people like me. Working or spending time outside in the tranquil setting of a garden can help to reduce the high anxiety levels which many of us struggle to cope with. The sights and natural smells of a garden can engage our senses without overwhelming us".

Working closely with young autistic trainees on The Autistic Gardener series showed me how gardening projects can promote team work and boost the confidence of autistic people, who frequently suffer from very low self-esteem. 

Through this partnership we will be expanding the benefits of gardens and gardening to a number of our local support branches across the country – enabling them to visit gardens, start gardening clubs, build allotments and even create sensory gardens.

Find out what some of our branches plan to do over the next year:

North Northumberland
Herefordshire
Denbighshire and Conwy
West Norfolk
Plymouth Adult Aspergers
Tavistock and District
Cambridge
Redruth and District
Bexhill and Hastings
Thurrock
Sutton
Hull and East Riding
Cardiff and the Vale
Lambeth

We’ll be following the progress of the branches throughout the year, so keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter for regular updates.

North Northumberland

Photograph of the North Northumberland BranchThe North Northumberland branch will be working with Lord and Lady Howick, who have generously offered space at Howick Hall, to create a sensory garden. The Hall is an existing garden open to the public and was mentioned in BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine as one of the UK’s top five coastal gardens. A professional gardener, along with the consultation and support of the group, will design a self-contained space concentrating on a range of sensory experiences. This sensory garden will offer a safe familiar space in which the branch can hold regular gardening days. It will be used as a regular meeting place for members, such as for their monthly support group. 

Herefordshire

Photograph of Hereford BranchA number of members from the Herefordshire Branch are already keen gardeners. The branch is looking to expand its gardening session by getting the equipment and tools they need, as well as a green house and developing an allotment site. The group is also planning a trip to visit a local garden. 

 

 

Denbighshire and Conwy

Photograph of Denbighshire and Conwy BranchWith the support of the National Garden Scheme, the Denbighshire and Conwy Branch is going to develop six individual allotments for families and a community garden for the whole branch. They hope this activity will bring health benefits for autistic children and their families by helping them increase the exercise they do and reduce their stress and anxiety. They will also run classes around healthy eating, cooking and preserving foods. As some of the children from the group are home-schooled, there will be a focus on learning opportunities all-round. 

West Norfolk

Photograph of West Norfolk BranchOver the next year, the West Norfolk Branch will develop a communal allotment with a sensory garden area, which will be open to all members. This will be a safe space where members can regularly tend the garden or just enjoy the peaceful environment, as well as a social space where members can come together. 

 

 

Milton Keynes

Photograph of the Milton Keynes BranchThe Milton Keynes Branch is keen to develop part of their community land into a sensory, atmospheric and relaxed garden environment for members, carers and wider community to enjoy. They have already developed mood boards and shared ideas on developing the available space.

The group is eager for a space that allows for relaxation time as well an educational space where they can enjoy health, horticulture, and home-grown produce for their cooking sessions. They also plan to organise guided tours to famous local open gardens. 

Plymouth Adult Aspergers

Photograph of Plymouth Adult Aspergers BranchWith the support of The National Garden Scheme, the Plymouth Adult Aspergers Branch is planning a summer of visits to local gardens. Every month, from June to September, the group will visit a different garden, including Saltram House, Coleton Fishacre, Buckfast Abbey and the Eden Project. 

 

 

 

Tavistock and District 

Tavistock branch.

The Tavistock and District branch are going to use the grant to make two trips to The Garden House local gardens in July and October. They are keen to visit an outdoor peaceful environment where they can develop an interest in gardens and socialise with the rest of the group.

"Each part of the Garden House estate was a riot of colour, often with a backdrop of varied textures and shades of green from the trees and shrubs. Armies of insects were very busy as were the birds trying to frantically feed their young. The visit was a real joy and our time there went very quickly" – Alan Thompson, Secretary: NAS Tavistock and District Asperger Support Group.

Cambridge

Photograph of Cambridge BranchThe Cambridge Branch regularly meets at the Chitra Sethia Autism Centre, which has a beautiful garden designed by Alan Gardner. The branch aims to encourage more members to enjoy the garden by starting a gardening club and installing a glasshouse for their group to work in. The new club will offer members the chance to develop and learn new life skills while socialising and enjoying gardening activities.   

 

Redruth and District

Photograph of Redbridge and District BranchThe 24 adults and eight volunteers from the Redruth and District Branch are planning to use their grant to visit the Subtropical Gardens at Dunster Castle in September. 

 

 

 

 

Bexhill and Hastings

Photograph of Beshill and Hastings BranchThe Bexhill and Hastings Branch are going to create a space for their members to plant and grow vegetables, flowers, and herbs in their local community garden. They will hold sensory afternoons where children on the autism spectrum can smell different herbs, play in the soil and even make a dinosaur mini-garden!

They're also planning to get the children and their parents involved in a sunflower growing competition, and do some pumpkin carving for Halloween.

 

Thurrock

ThurrockThe Thurrock Branch will be visiting a whole range of gardens throughout the year. Thirty families from the branch regularly visit a number of National Trust sites.

  

 

  

 

 

Sutton

SuttonLater this year, the Sutton Branch will be going on a Christmas themed trip to the Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park. With all the trees lit up and the effects throughout the garden it makes a fantastic outdoor sensory experience that the whole group can go along and enjoy.

 

 

 

Hull and East Riding

The Hull and East Riding Branch would like to bring the benefits of gardening to their Teen Social Group and Family Fun Group. They plan to set up a gardening club for both groups.

The clubs will provide opportunities for children and teenagers to take part in a social activities and make friends. They will also provide parents with an activity they can do with their children. The gardening club will mean that all members can learn more about where some of their food comes from, and give them the confidence to see what they can grow.

Cardiff and the Vale

CardiffWith their grant, the Cardiff and the Vale Branch will be paying a visit to the National Botanical Garden of Wales. They’ll be spending the day visiting a range of themed gardens, the world’s largest single-span glasshouse, a tropical butterfly house, and a national nature reserve.

 

 

 

Lambeth

LambethWith their grant, the Lambeth Branch have organised a Herbal Gardening Wellbeing Course. The idea is to learn more about how growing and using herbs can help wellbeing, and improve quality of life. It will take place at Rosendale Allotments and at other gardens around London, and is being taught by Amanda Rew, a professional herbalist and a horticulture tutor, with volunteer help from Jacqui Thomson, committee member of Lambeth Autism Group.

 

 

Thank you to the National Garden Scheme for their generous support. We look forward the positive impact we can achieve through working together over the next year with our grants for gardening.