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Green-fingered patients at Ashgate Hospice are enjoying taking part in a special virtual gardening experience from their own homes thanks to a generous grant.
Prior to the pandemic, Day Services patients enjoyed getting their hands dirty in the hospice gardens; helping to grow fruit, vegetables and more.
But when the pandemic hit, patients and their families were restricted from accessing services at Old Brampton, with many patients shielding due to the risks posed by COVID-19.
The charity soon introduced virtual services for its patients, which saw the introduction of The Potting Club – an online session which meant patients with life-limiting illnesses could continue getting involved with the horticultural activities from their own homes.
The project has been made possible thanks to funding from the Chesterfield Health and Wellbeing Small Grants Scheme Panel, along with the help of Derbyshire Voluntary Action.
Ami Brunyee, Activities Co-ordinator at Ashgate Hospice, as well as founder and facilitator of The Potting Club, streams the sessions to patients via Zoom, live from the garden shed in the hospice gardens.
She said: “Our Day Services patients loved getting their hands dirty in our gardens before the pandemic, so it was such a shame when the pandemic stopped folk from visiting Old Brampton.
“We wanted to continue to offer some horticultural fun to our patients, so I worked to introduce The Potting Club – and it’s been a great success so far!
“The aim was to create a small mini-garden which is easy to grow and has health benefits for each individual; the gardens can be kept indoors for those that cannot get out in the garden too.
“It gives some patients something to look forward to and allows others to make new friends and talk to people who are going through similar experiences as they are.
“The sessions are filled with fun and laughter and nobody takes themselves too seriously! It’s just great to see our patients enjoying themselves and getting lost in the moment.”
The charity’s virtual The Potting Shed Club has been taking place this summer, after its initial launch last year and aims to get patients involved with fun horticultural activities, whilst helping people connect with others.
Ami hand-delivered a special activities pack to patients, which included a large planter, herbs, gloves, an apron, compost, written instructions and more, so they can create their own little gardens in their own homes.
The packs are funded by the Chesterfield and Wellbeing, Healthy North East Derbyshire, and Healthy Bolsover Grants Schemes, again with the help of Derbyshire Voluntary Action.
David Lawton, 73, from High Peak, has lived with heart failure after suffering a cardiac arrest in 2013. He started attending Ashgate’s virtual sessions during the first lockdown and has particularly enjoyed taking part in The Potting Club sessions.
He said: “I’ve really enjoyed taking part in the sessions. They’ve been very interesting and I’ve been learning along the way.
“I’ve not really been a green-fingered person before so there’s lots to take in, but it’s been great and I’ve even been eating some of my produce!
“We’ve made chives, mint – and it’s been great watching it grow. It’s come on well and some of it is still growing.
“It’s a little something different and just shows you’re never too old to learn new things. Ami is lovely and very knowledgeable; she’s just been great.”
Patients who attend the virtual sessions get to take part in a different theme every fortnight – from learning about horticulture to making tea with home-grown herbs, there’s plenty for the participants to get involved with.
Derbyshire Voluntary Action’s Feeling Connected Fund has also ensured those patients who don’t have the technology they need to take part in the virtual activities by funding tablet devices and broadband access for patients to access the sessions.