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A Magazine for Sheffield

Bloom Sheffield A flower garden for women

Community garden promotes positive mental health through therapeutic horticulture.

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Helena Dolby

There’s such simple joy to be found in growing a flower from seed, and Kendall at Bloom Sheffield has used her lifelong passion for gardening to share that joy with women and girls in her community. I chatted to her to find out more about how Bloom is reducing social isolation and helping women to feel good.

Hi Kendall. Lovely to meet you. First things first, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to set up Bloom Sheffield?

Sure, I started Bloom in 2019 after leaving my job as a SEN teacher. It was a very demanding job and my own mental health had really declined over my years of teaching. The time I was spending at my own allotment was the only time I was feeling myself and I thought how wonderful it would be for all women to have access to that sort of space.

I have always gardened and spent my childhood working alongside my Dad on his allotment, so I knew the benefits and the rewards of working outside and developing a space. I spent two years juggling multiple jobs so I could get Bloom off the ground, and it paid off. We now have a board of dedicated, passionate directors and four paid members of staff. We are also supported by a wonderful team of committed volunteers, without whom Bloom could not help our community as we do.

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Helena Dolby

Bloom’s flower garden is a designated safe space for women and girls. How do you cultivate this therapeutic environment?

Our community flower garden is located in Heeley and Meersbrook allotments. We chose that site for multiple reasons; firstly, it straddles three main neighbourhoods meaning that it is accessible for many people. It is also a quiet space, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This is very important for a therapeutic space, as it provides distance from everyday worries and stresses. It allows people to experience and gain the benefits of nature and green space without having to travel too far from home. Our space is for women and girls, that includes trans women and non-binary people. We aim to create a space where our attendees can feel relaxed, safe and supported so that they feel comfortable to try new things and meet new people.

I know from my own experience that gardening outdoors often gives me a welcome boost, but what are some of the other benefits of gardening for people’s mental health?

Our aim, as an organisation, is to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the women in our community. We provide a safe space for attendees to build social connections, reduce isolation and build lasting relationships; we help women connect with each other and with nature. This has a positive effect on mental health and provides us with a sense of belonging. Working towards a common goal and doing something that matters to us helps form connections and develop relationships, which are key to feeling part of a community and maintaining a positive and healthy state of mind.

Gardening can encourage us to be physically active outdoors; regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. We offer a range of physical activities at the garden that are tailored to the person’s needs and capabilities. At our sessions, we teach and share skills to help women learn new things; these practical skills develop self-esteem, purpose and pride. We provide rewarding and practical groups that allow women to give their time to contribute towards a green space that is used by many others. Spending time outdoors helps regulate mood and can help us become more mindful. Gardening involves calming, repetitive activities that help keep the mind focussed on the present moment and away from other stresses and worries.

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Helena Dolby

You run weekly Open Days & Gardening for Mental Health Groups. What can folks look forward to at these?

Our Open Days run twice a week and you can attend whatever date suits you. They run for three hours, but people can come for as long or as little as they like. The Open Days are super fun - we have a range of gardening activities available and it’s all about having a go. No experience necessary. If you’re interested in trying out gardening, learning new things and meeting lovely, like-minded people, come along for a cuppa. You always leave with arms full of flowers too!

Our Gardening to Feel Good groups run for six weeks at a time throughout the year. They are small groups and give us the opportunity to work together, meet new people and share skills. If you’re feeling a bit down, or anxious, and feel like some time outdoors doing something productive will make you feel good, come along! These groups are for everyone. Each week we work together in the garden doing a variety of activities. You are free to do as much, or as little as you like. Some examples of things we get up to are digging, planting, sowing seeds and weeding. Tea and biscuits are always provided, along with chats and friendly faces. The main purpose of the garden is to help women feel good - our groups are low pressure and very relaxed.

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Helena Dolby

And finally, can you tell us about a couple of your favourite Bloom moments?

There are so many to choose from. I honestly couldn’t have imagined the amount of wonderful people I have met through the garden and the opportunities it has provided. There is one Open Day that stands out to me though. We needed to erect some trellis, so I’d purchased all the equipment and had it delivered. When it came to putting it up, I realised that I had no idea what I was doing! Everyone at the Open Day banded together and we figured it out as a team. There were so many laughs and some excellent team work. Yes, the trellis is a little wonky, but it is still standing strong and it is such a clear illustration of what can be achieved when we work together. I loved that day and every time I look at that trellis I am reminded of what a special place our community garden is.

If people would like to attend our Gardening To Feel Good Groups, or find out more they can email Cath on People can also support the work we do within the community by making a donation or buying a bunch of our flowers.

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)

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