Having managed a busy community garden for over 20 years, the pandemic came as a personal shock. For the first time in my life, I’ve been categorised by others as ‘extremely vulnerable’ – in a way as disempowered as many of the beneficiaries of our garden’s therapeutic services.

A number of things became acutely clear. Not so much the sudden change in reduction of services – as 90% of our garden users were also vulnerable and shielding, this was inevitable – but the way in which we would need to adapt in order to continue to support them. Most of our garden users do not Whatsapp or zoom – they don’t have the equipment, expertise or support. Instead, we’re relying on the ‘dog & bone’ for regular chats.

We quickly noticed the desperate need people had to start growing, particularly food. Very obvious was the instinct within us all to nurture, to grow, to get back into the solace and healing that only being in nature can provide. So, we started deliveries of veg plants, herbs, honey and compost to isolating and vulnerable people in Hackney. It’s been going so well we’ve nearly run out of everything!

While shielding, I’ve been lucky to access a small roof with enough space to grow veg plants and herbs – and flowering plants given by a neighbour who was moving. I’m now reaping the rewards – lettuces, fresh herbs and I’ve given my tomatoes their first feed. It’s a great way to relieve the frustrations, anger and boredom.

We’re starting to plan for re-opening with a different kind of normal. The need for a safe, secure and silent space is more critical than ever – calls with vulnerable individuals and organisations that support them have illustrated that quite clearly. We are afraid to join the madding crowds again so we are exploring Sanctuary Garden sessions – a time to have the garden to yourself or for your small group. A time for being in nature – a time to heal.