Experiences of a non-gardener

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March 21, 2023
4 min
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This story takes us on a journey from illness through to recovery and beyond.

Starting at Bridewell

Coming from the institutional experience of hospital going to Bridewell was daunting and nerve-racking at first, although even then this gardener was struck by the beauty of the place. She was also “trepidatious” because she was not a gardener and knew nothing about gardening.

She was made to feel very welcome, finding both staff and volunteers very friendly. “You weren’t made to feel that you didn’t know anything. Everyone was learning together and you were shown how to do everything”

Through being looked after, nourished and learning to look after herself she was able to use Bridewell as “a stepping-stone, a half-way house which helped me to step back into society”


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Bridewell was “a stepping-stone, a half-way house which helped me to step back into society”

Working with others

It was great to be with other gardeners who understood. “If I was having an off-day, everyone got it as they had off-days themselves – you didn’t have to explain yourself”.

“The other gardeners were quite inspirational – it can be humbling to hear about their experiences and what they have to deal with every day”

The experience of working in a small team, the camaraderie, the company were all important.

Positive risk taking

A turning point occurred when an inspirational teacher from Abingdon & Witney College came to give a talk “Knowing Me”. “I got a lot out of it and she suggested I do a talk to gardeners on Mindfulness. I was incredibly nervous but it seemed to go well”

One of the volunteers said “The only person who thinks you can’t do it is you” which she found very helpful and has returned to since then.

This experience boosted her confidence and through meetings with the workers she was helped to make a plan and take steps forward.

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One of the volunteers said “The only person who thinks you can’t do it is you”


An important change was the impact her attendance at Bridewell had on her children. ”My kids liked me going to Bridewell because I came home happier and more fulfilled. I had some pride in what I’d achieved and I came home with something I’d made – food, objects” Her older son said “Mum, I like it when you go to Bridewell because it makes you happier when you come home”. Other gardeners who are parents have said the same thing.

Returning to work

After several months off work she returned to her previous employment part-time and got a job at the Warneford leading on Patient and Public Involvement. They wanted someone with lived experience of psychosis.  The storyteller concludes “that Bridewell is all about progress. It’s lovely to see people gain confidence and go on to do something in their community.”


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“I don’t think I’d have done it without Bridewell. I realised there were many fulfilling ways of making a living”

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