A CHURCH in central London which has carved out an oasis of calm for vulnerable and isolated people has been named the winner of the first ever Church Times Green Health Awards.
St Paul’s, Camden Square, which comes under the Old St Pancras Team Ministry, was declared the overall winner on Tuesday at a ceremony in Lambeth Palace. The award of £2000 is for its Woodland Garden project, which was set up in December.
The garden serves as both a wildlife refuge and a space for growing fruit and vegetables in the heart of London.
Many who attend weekly sessions at the garden come from St Pancras Hospital near by, which cares for mostly elderly and psychiatric patients; some have spent years in the hospital wards, and rarely if ever go outside.
Besides offering the therapeutic benefits — for physical and mental health — of gardening, the project also connects isolated and lonely people in the community with volunteers from the congregation.
The sessions are timed to coincide with the 11 a.m. mass and coffee hour at St Paul’s on Wednesdays, to encourage more connections between the garden users and the wider church community.
The award was made at a ceremony in Lambeth Palace by the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, who leads the Church of England’s work on health. The ceremony was part of Green Health Live, a day-long conference for professionals and those interested in the environment.
The psychology lead for rehabilitation at St Pancras Hospital, Tilly Williams, worked with St Paul’s in developing the garden. She said that the project was “unique” in the area. “It encourages people — some of whom have spent most of their adult lives in hospital, and are unlikely to engage in mainstream services — to venture out into the community to try a new activity, perhaps for the first time in many years.”
St John’s, Upper Norwood, in south-east London, and Wharton and Cleggs Lane Methodist Church, Salford, were also given awards of £750 each.
St John’s won the Growing Calm Award, sponsored by the Mind and Soul Foundation, for providing the best “urban ecotherapy” project, which offers respite for communities living in heavily urbanised environments.
Nigel TaggartJames Laing from the Allchurches Trust presents the Community Nurture Award to Wharton and Cleggs Lane Church and Community Centre
In 2013, volunteers from the church, working with charities in the area, transformed a piece of neglected land which had been derelict for 30 years, next to the church, into a community meadow garden.
The garden now offers a welcome and tranquil patch of green for people who live in the north of Croydon, but also forms the base for food-growing workshops, a greenhouse, and a beekeeping project.
In partnership with several doctors’ surgeries, people diagnosed with mental-health difficulties have also been “prescribed” time at the meadow garden as part of their treatment and ongoing support.
Wharton and Cleggs Lane Church was named the winner of the Community Nurture Award, sponsored by Allchurches Trust. The church, which is in one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Britain, has built up a community garden that features allotments, an orchard, two greenhouses, and a nature walk.
Wharton and Cleggs Lane Church has forged a bond with a neighbouring mental-health NHS facility, and regularly receives referrals from psychiatrists there. A primary school uses the nature trail for education in healthy eating, and all the surplus produce grown in the garden is donated to a Christian charity for homeless people in the area.
All shortlisted entrants received gardening gloves, seeds, and recycled tools.
Read Tim Wyatt’s report on the ‘rich green legacy’ that the Church offers