Katie O’Neill – Gartnavel volunteer

The Gartnavel Gardening Group is run by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) within the grounds of Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow, and is open to former patients and members of the local community.  Using organic principles the group undertakes grow-your-own, ornamental and wildlife gardening.  Encouraging wildlife is a top priority, so plant selections are made with wildlife in mind, particularly pollinators and birds. Katie O’Neill reflects on what volunteers achieve.

Katie working in the Gartnavel garden.

Katie working in the Gartnavel garden.

The group has created several wildlife features including a bird feeding bed filled with seed producing plants, plus a bug hotel, bird boxes and dead hedge, and this year they hope to add a small wildlife pond. The group’s volunteers are also involved in the management of two wildflower meadows created as part of the greenspace infrastructure works at the hospital.

 Katie O’Neill sees the positive benefits:

“We are quite a varied group demographically and with different employment backgrounds, but we’re actually all quite like-minded – very welcoming and tolerant. I wouldn’t keep coming back if it wasn’t for the fact that people are so tolerant and considerate.

We get evidence that the things we do can be positive – there’s a positive outcome to it. I remember coming here in the beginning thinking that I’m going to be planting seeds and I thought there’s no way they are going to grow!  But every week there’s something you see that’s different and you know you’ve made an impact and you’ve had a part to play in it. That really gives me a lot of hope.

Thinking about this past year – for me the garden’s really been the ignition for me getting back to my life. Learning little things in the garden has translated into me realising that I can learn anything that I put my mind to.  I’m learning new skills. It’s so empowering and confidence building. It’s also made me realise that if further down the line I want to go back to my job – than maybe I can.”

Another member of the group commented that involvement in the garden could be life changing, to which Katie replied: “It has been!”  

The Gartnavel Gardening Group is funded by the Green Exercise Partnership (SNH, NHS Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland), in conjunction with Art in the Gart.  For further information contact Bryony Whyte, Green Activity Project Officer: bryony.white@tcv.org.uk  or 07977 406900.

www.tcv.org.uk/scotland

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