Keeping Richard gardening: how the National Garden Scheme supports Perennial’s work

Richard Brind is a retired gardener who enjoyed a very long horticultural career. From a young age he tended gardens for the local manor house and farming Landowners, as well as maintaining his own large garden and allotment. In early 2016, at the age of 81, a sudden and unexpected leg amputation drastically changed Richard’s previously active life. The family received help from the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, who helped assess his needs following the amputation and ensured his finances were in order but confined to a wheelchair and with no way of accessing his own garden, Richard found it difficult to cope with his inactivity. He would barely leave the house. His daughter Jude contacted Perennial in early 2017 to ask for help with adaptations to her Dad’s garden. Here she talks about Richard’s background and how Perennial were able to help.

“Many of my family worked both horticultural and agricultural land for local landowners, From a young boy, as second eldest of 9 children Dad had to work hard helping with the family allotment and vegetable garden, potato picking and hay making.

A natural outdoors-loving person, Dad had to work four nights a week in a foundry to maintain his growing family. Fresh in from the night shift, he would grab breakfast with us before going off to milk cows, snatch a few hours sleep, more milking in the afternoon, something to eat, and back to the factory. But on Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays he came alive, as he worked in the gardens at the Manor House or West Street Farm. I spent most of my childhood weekends with Dad in those gardens, where he was a happy person, and considered the vast space my personal playgrounds.

In his 50s, Dad ceased factory work to concentrate on maintaining his own abundant allotment, the gardens at his childhood home where his elderly parents still lived, The Manor House kitchen gardens and the vegetable gardens at West Street Farm.  He won hundreds of horticultural prizes at the local Flower Show over the years, but slowed down physical work at around age 75, having undergone a third hip replacement.  Despite his bad heart, shoulders and hips, he fully maintained his own garden and allotment, and mine, until the unexpected leg amputation put paid to the love of his life – gardening.  Not happy in a wheelchair Dad was getting very depressed that he was unable to access his garden.

I found reference to Perennial in my local parish magazine. I contacted them and they quickly sent a caseworker out to assess Dad’s situation. After confirming they could help, we obtained quotes for adapting the garden to make it wheelchair accessible.  By March 2018 Dad had received assistance from Perennial to construct a new pathway to access his top garden, as well as 3 raised planting beds which he could easily plant from his wheelchair. Perennial has given Dad a new lease of life and his mental and physical health has benefitted so much from him being able to access his garden and continue to tend his plants. We are so grateful to you, Perennial, please don’t stop the excellent work you do.

Dad’s advice to others would be Don’t be too proud to ask for help.”

The National Garden Scheme Gardens & Health Week 2018 highlights the importance of gardens, gardening and garden visiting on wellbeing and mental health. Every year garden owners who open their gardens to the public under the National Garden Scheme raise an incredible amount of money for Perennial, which is used to support people like Richard facing life-changing challenges.

If you would like to find out more about Gardens & Health Week, visit the National Garden Scheme website here.

If you know someone who needs help, find out more about Perennial’s free and confidential services for anyone who has worked, or works in the horticulture sector in the UK. This includes gardeners, nursery owners and workers, garden designers, landscapers, arborists, foresters, garden centre staff, commercial growers, turf maintenance specialists and many more.