The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Saturday, 23 November 2013

TV gardener Jim McColl launches renovation project at Ayr horticultural therapy garden for armed forces veterans

TV gardener and BBC Beechgrove Garden presenter Jim McColl helped Gardening Leave officially launch Phase 2 of its project to renovate a large Victorian ‘Stovehouse’ greenhouse next to its horticultural therapy garden at Auchincruive, near Ayr.

[Pictured: South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie with Jim McColl in the Stovehouse.]

When complete, Gardening Leave will be able to offer armed forces veterans with mental health issues more space to work inside on therapeutic gardening and woodwork tasks, particularly over the winter months. It will also allow the charity to offer a broader range of activities to a greater number of veterans.

Jim McColl is a former student at the old agricultural college at Auchincruive and as a youngster worked in the Stovehouse before it fell into disrepair. Gardening Leave has restored the first half of the listed Stovehouse building but urgently needs to complete this second phase to ensure the building is restored back to its former glory. £50,000 funding from the Pilgrim Trust will allow this final phase to start but the charity still needs to find a further £40,000 to complete the work.

Local Provost Helen Moonie and a group from the Army Cadet Force lent a hand to help launch the project.

[Pictured: Jim McColl, Heather Budge-Reid, horticultural therapist Pamela Smith, Professor George Marshall from the SRUC and South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie.]

Jim McColl said: “I studied and worked at Auchincruive from 1954 to 1959. During the last three years I lived with three others in the Bothy right on site. With the glasshouse foreman, we formed a team to perform weekend duty rota which entailed looking after thousands of plants.  It was our responsibility to look after them, in various glasshouses, including the Stovehouse. That included stoking 5 different boilers (three of them by hand!).

“Two words there stick out a mile – duty and responsibility. These values, which I learned at that time, have stayed with me till this day. The guys who work in this same environment today have ably displayed their duty and responsibility and now the restoration of these glasshouses to full working order, for their use, is surely an apt metaphor for our present duty and responsibility to them. Needless to say, I am delighted to have the opportunity to help publicise this invaluable initiative,” he added.

Gardening Leave’s Chief Executive Heather Budge-Reid said: “I can’t tell you how excited we are that the Pilgrim Trust is making this possible. Jim McColl’s visit will mean the world to our veterans and the cadets who are helping us. When the building is finished it will be something for all of Ayrshire to be proud of.”

Director at the Pilgrim Trust, Georgina Naylor, said: “The Pilgrim Trust is delighted to be able to contribute towards the repair of this important listed garden building particularly as, once restored, it will be used for its original purpose, horticulture, and also will support the work Gardening Leave does with veterans.”

South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie said: “Gardening Leave does a great job, some veterans needs are highly visible, and others are not, but, in the end, with the right support, every veteran is helped to be the best they can be. When you take a cutting from a plant, or have a young seedling, it needs the right surroundings, nourishment and encouragement to grow and flourish – that is what Gardening Leave provides.

“The work that has been carried out, and the work that will be carried out is transforming the Stovehouse into a multifunctional area that can be used to meet the needs of veterans,” she added.

Gardening Leave tends to the invisible wounds of conflict by providing horticultural therapy for troubled veterans. An estimated 20% of veterans carry a mental wound and these needs as much healing as any physical wound.  Gardening Leave has four projects across the UK (Auchincruive, Erskine and two in London) where its specially trained horticultural therapists work with veterans to help them on their journey to good health and their transition to civilian life. The value of gardening therapy is well recognised, particularly for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

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