East Pennine Churchill Fellows at Barnsley Town Hall

On Saturday the 4th of October 2014 I attended the Association for East Pennine Churchill Fellows at their biennial meeting, which was held on this occasion at Barnsley Town Hall.

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We were fortunate enough for the meeting to take place in the Council Chambers which is a lovely room and well worth having a look for yourself if you ever get the chance.

The meetings are a special bonus to becoming a Winston Churchill Fellow as it keeps you in contact with other Fellows and really brings home that you are a Fellow for life. As a recent Fellow (travelling in 2013) this feels particularly important as it offers continuity after the year of intensity, great experiences and project writing has come to an end. It is worth mentioning that the other members of the Regional Association have been very welcoming and supportive throughout my involvement with them.

I have now attended four of the regional meetings which have all been held in excellent and most interesting locations, The Lit and Phil in Newcastle, Durham Town Hall and The Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds.

At each meeting there are half hour presentations by previous Fellows about their projects and what has resulted from their Fellowships. On this occasion at Barnsley we had presentations from Sharon Bainbridge, who is studying millinery and textiles and Lindsay Graham who is working on child school holiday food poverty. She highlighted that although free school meals for all early year pupils are a useful introduction pupils are at real risk of food poverty during the school holidays when they can not access free meals. Lindsay travelled around the USA to look at their programs.

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Sharon runs a blog which can be found here: http://sharonbainbridge.blogspot.co.uk/

For more information about Lindsay Graham’s work on school food poverty please visit: http://www.lindsaygraham.org.uk/

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WCMT Fellowship Presentation

At the end of May 2014 I was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship Medallion at a ceremony at the Winston Churchill Trust office building, Church House, London for my project and subsequent report ‘Therapeutic Horticulture: Horticulture as a Medical Treatment’.

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It was an excellent and extremely well organised event with plenty of opportunity to talk to familiar Fellows and make contact with new ones. Dame Mary Peters presented the Medallions to all of the Fellows. Mary Peters is a Winston Churchill Fellow having previously been funded to travel and train in California prior to her gold medal success in the pentathlon at the 1972 Munich Olympics. In her speech to Fellows and their guests Mary Peters said that she was training in poor facilities in Northern Ireland and had finished 4th in 1964 and 9th in 1968 before being given the opportunity to go to California. It was a an honour and a privilege to not only meet Mary Peters but to receive my Fellowship Medallion from her.

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You can read and download the report for free from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website: http://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows-today/richard-brown.html

Canada and USA – All The Gardens

Here is a video which takes you through all of the gardens, in order, from my Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Included is at least one picture from each stop with the names and places included.

If you require any further information about my project or the places I visited, please message me.

‘Horticulture as a Medical Treatment’ – The Report

So, after a 14 month journey, commencing with first reading about the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in October 2012, the report of my travelling fellowship to the USA and Canada has been published on the WCMT website.

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The report is approximately 10,000 words long and contains information relating to the design and accessibility of therapy gardens, horticultural based therapeutic activities, outcome measures and documentation, the education and professional registration of therapists and Horticultural Therapists as professionals.

It has been a real privilege to be involved with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and I wanted to the report to meet the high standards that the Trust and it’s previous Fellows have set. I can only hope it has.

The main aim of the project was to learn from professionals in North America and bring the information back in order to help support and inspire other therapists whilst raising the profile of horticultural therapy as an effective and professional therapy.

The report can be viewed and downloaded free from: http://www.wcmt.org.uk/users/richardbrown2013

John Hancock Tower, Chicago

‘Therapeutic Horticulture’ A Video Montage

Here is ‘Therapeutic Horticulture’ – A Winston Churchill Memorial Trust video montage. It is a short video I have put together with some of the footage I took from my Fellowship travels. I do not aim for it to be the definitive video on the project, hopefully wet the appetite for some longer and more detailed examinations of the gardens and projects I visited.

Regional Fellows Meeting in Durham

WCMT Durham

On the Saturday following my Sunday overnight return to the UK was the biennial East Pennine Association of Churchill Fellows meeting at the Town Hall in Durham. I was kindly (at least I think he was being kind!) asked by the Secretary Gordon Mason to do a 5 minute talk ‘from a Fellow who has just returned’. It was quite an honour to be able to speak to Churchill Fellows from 1966 to the present day.

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Chicago Botanic Garden

 Chicago Botanic Garden

First of all, let me apologise for the delay in writing this one up. Since returning home and to work and to renovating our house (with some fruit wine making thrown in!) it had dropped off the end of that list somewhat.

Chicago Botanic Garden is world renowned as a garden alone. This can also be said for its accessible garden and horticultural therapy service.

Opened in 1972 (relatively young for a botanical garden), the “living plant museum” is situated north of Chicago in Glencoe and covers 385 acres of previous wetland which was excavated to create 9 islands housing 26 display gardens (including the world’s first and largest enabling garden) that are surrounded by 4 wildlife areas.

Chicago Botanic Garden

The horticultural therapy service is made up by three members of staff; Barb Kreski (Director of Horticultural Therapy Services), Alicia Green (Coordinator, Buehler Enabling Garden) and Clare Johnson (Off-site Coordinator and Design Consultant). They offer therapy programs in the Buehler Enabling Garden, off-site programming, accessible and healing garden design consultation and run horticultural therapy and healthcare garden design teaching courses.

I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity by Barb Kreski to see the original enabling garden that Gene Rothert created. Since the creation of the BuehlerGarden it has now fallen into disrepair and is soon to be built on, but it was an absolute privilege to see where the ideas that have later become the world’s most famous accessible garden were sown. The garden was made at low cost to demonstrate how accessibility could be achieved by everyone. The raised beds being made from cinder blocks (breeze blocks to us in the UK) and wood. Planters made from chimney pots and hard standing suitable for wheelchair access throughout.

Old Enabling Garden

Old Enabling Garden

Old Enabling Garden

 Old Enabling Garden

The Buehler Enabling Garden was built in and is the pinnacle of accessible gardens. All of the ideas and concepts that Gene Rothert started and worked on in the old garden were incorporated in the Buehler.

Buehler Enabling Garden

I hope to cover all the ideas in my final report, which you will be able to download for free, but I will highlight some here. The hanging baskets are on a pulley system so they can be higher and lowered quickly and easily so that people can work on and appreciate them at any level.

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There is a grid garden for people with sight difficulties. Each plant is planted in the middle of the square of the grid, with the plant being chosen for their sensory benefits. A person can then count out which grid they are working in, know the plant they are growing in the middle and everything around it can be weeded out.

Buehler Enabling Garden

‘Pan beds’ are designed to slope slightly away from the person who is working on them so that they do not get wet, particularly if there legs are underneath the bed.

Buehler Enabling Garden

The garden also has a raised lawn area. The idea behind this is for people who are in wheelchairs it can often be difficult to transfer in and out of the chair to lay on the grass. With the grass being brought up to seating level, transferring is much easier and, for some, can be done without the help of anyone else.

Buehler Enabling Garden 

A demonstration potting shed displays adapted tools for people to try and feel the weight of before committing to buy them.

Buehler Enabling Garden 

Alicia’s job is to maintain the garden to the Botanical Garden standards, including following themes on planting whilst balancing this with running therapy programs in the garden and coordinating volunteers.

Whilst I was in the Buehler Garden the overall feeling was that it was just another garden, along with the other 25. Only when you looked closely and read the signage was it evident that you were in an accessible garden. Surely that is what we are all aiming for, people being able to just garden, in a garden that everyone can access, no fuss.

Buehler Enabling Garden

Buehler Enabling Garden

As mentioned above, the Horticultural Therapy Team also run programs off-site and I accompanied Barb Kreski on a visit to a local school for children with autism where Barb runs sessions on linking caring for plants with self-care, discussing what plants need to stay alive and pointing out that each one might need different amounts of things (e.g. sunlight and water). The children were clearly engaged, offering ideas and suggestions throughout.

The team, through Clare Johnson, offer advice on creating accessible and healing gardens. She also designs programs for services which she helps to set up and run before leaving the staff to continue to run the programs.