The Green Health Awards celebrate the efforts made by churches and Christian organisations to use gardens and churchyards creatively for well-being.
Gardeners have always understood the power of gardens and gardening to heal the mind, body and spirit, but in recent years accepted wisdom has been backed up by evidence-based research. Studies have suggested that gardening can help lower stress, combat loneliness and may even reduce the risk of dementia.
And with green space in towns and cities at a premium, church land is well placed to meet the need of communities for outdoor spaces which promote mental and physical health.
The winners of the 2018 Green Health Awards were announced at Lambeth Palace on 2 October.
ACCEPT in Leicestershire has an evolving garden and allotment space, developed by those who've experienced mental health issues, through which growth and well-being takes place in a variety of ways.
The roof of Manchester Cathedral is home to large numbers of bees, looked after by volunteers who are experiencing long-term unemployment. The project is designed to help turn around the lives of people who have lost confidence and self-esteem.
Polwarth Parish Church, Edinburgh, is the only working church on the Union Canal between Edinburgh and Falkirk. The church has created a garden to promote Polwarth as a place of wholeness and well-being for veterans of the armed forces, and others.
St Pol de Léon’s, Penzance, uses the natural environment of a churchyard to create a reflective multi-sensory haven of peace on the edge of the town in Cornwall. The garden is used by many groups including a children’s holiday club, a dementia support-group, and a gardening club for adults with learning difficulties.
St Giles’s, Lincoln, has created an accessible community garden in an urban setting to enable local people to get to know one another, to promote mental and physical well-being, and to strengthen the bond between the parish church and its neighbourhood.
The Meadow Garden at St John’s, Upper Norwood, is a community haven of fruit and vegetable beds, edible hedges, and bee hives, in a built-up urban area of south-east London. A neglected area for more than 30 years, the meadow now hosts weekly gardening sessions, to which patients from two doctors’ surgeries are referred, to improve their mental health and to build up friendships with those from the church and the community.
St John’s, Old Trafford, has been running a gardening project for five years. Originally set up to offer practical vegetable-growing skills, the garden has brought community groups together, and helped people to tackle social isolation.
St Mary the Virgin, Lewisham, has created a therapeutic garden in a previously under-used area of the churchyard. On a busy, polluted high street, the garden is a place of natural beauty and peace for the whole community, in an area that has some of the worst inequality-indicators in the country.
St Paul’s, Old St Pancras, runs weekly gardening sessions for patients from St Pancras Hospital, in London. The woodland garden allows people who may be experiencing social exclusion, or mental or physical ill-health, to benefit from working with nature.
Wharton and Cleggs Lane Church, Salford, has developed community allotments, a small orchard, a nature walk, and two greenhouses on land at the back of the church. Sited in one of the most deprived areas of the country, the church works closely with the area’s health-improvement team.
The awards are in partnership with The Church of England, The Guild of Health and St Raphael, and The Conservation Foundation, with additional support from The Mercers’ Company, the Mind and Soul Foundation and Allchurches Trust.