Grow Cardiff has opened a new therapeutic community garden in the heart of Riverside thanks to more than £3,000 of funding from the Hau Third Sector Fund.

Since launching in 2015, grassroots charity Grow Cardiff has developed Grow Well community gardens and uses gardening as a therapeutic tool to support health and wellbeing.

The community project has two established Grow Well gardens in Canton and Ely and £3,701 of funding from the Hau Third Sector Fund has allowed the project to develop its third, Grow Well Riverside at Riverside Health Centre.

Grow Well Riverside has been co-produced by volunteers and the local community over the past 10 months, with gardening workshops allowing the team to transform a dull patch of land into a green oasis.

Grow Cardiff works with 10 GP surgeries across Riverside, Pontcanna, Canton, Ely and Caerau who refer patients to the project to support their health and wellbeing. People who live in or are registered with a GP in the these areas can also refer themselves.

Isla Horton, Director and Co-founder of Grow Cardiff, said: “The Grow Well project has been extremely important in allowing people who have a common interest to come together and socialise in a safe, inclusive space.

“We want to support local people in Riverside and at our other sites to improve their health and wellbeing and do so through access to nature and food growing opportunities on their doorsteps.

“Riverside has fantastic shared knowledge of how to grow because many people who live there have lived and farmed all around the world and have amazing skills and knowledge that they can share.”

The community gardens run sessions weekly and volunteers support people of all ages and backgrounds to improve mental wellbeing and help those facing social isolation.

One participant explained how they joined the project following the loss of a family member.

They said: “My brother passed away and I was in a bad place. I never used to do gardening or anything but the project worker got in touch and offered me a wreath-making kit to do at home. I took it, moved the cat out the way and then I made this beautiful thing which I was very proud of. That was how it started.

“From then on, every week the project worker would contact me and I started coming to the garden. It made a big difference in my life because I was very depressed and down. When I started coming to the garden it just brought me out a bit, meeting people and doing things. It just makes you feel a lot better.”

“People join for lots of different reasons,” Isla explained. “Some who get involved are on a journey of recovery, perhaps from job loss, illness or grief.

“When people put their hands in earth, smell flowers, see bees and butterflies and have fresh air they’re connecting with nature. It’s powerful and healing and we facilitate that.

“One volunteer began participating in the project following a stroke. When he first came, he had very limited mobility and used a walking stick but just a year later he’s sawing and building things. It’s incredible to be part of his recovery.

“When people first join, we ask what they are good at and what their gifts are because everyone brings something to the project — even if they haven’t gardened before. Whether that’s sowing seeds, making a good cup of tea or supporting others. It allows people to realise gifts and skills they might have forgotten they had or they want to develop.”

The Cardiff Council and Vale of Glamorgan Council in partnership with Cardiff Third Sector Council (C3SC) and Glamorgan Voluntary Services (GVS) have allocated £60,000 to the Hau Third Sector Fund to fund innovative third sector sustainable preventative community activities and services in Cardiff and the Vale. The Fund is administered by C3SC in partnership with GVS.

The Grow Well Riverside community garden is open on Thursdays from 11am to 1pm.

For more information, please email growwell@growcardiff.org, or to make a referral, please call Claire Terry, Grow Well Co-ordinator, on 07555 450 456.