Grow Well is the flagship community social prescribing project in the South West Cardiff Primary Care Cluster. The Cluster’s social prescribing pathway, into which Grow Well is embedded, enables GPs and social prescribers based in surgeries and other health-based voluntary and local authority services, to seamlessly refer patients to therapeutic, welcoming community gardens. Through the support of our highly skilled staff, who deliver weekly sessions across sites, the aim is to make a positive, lasting impact on local people’s physical and mental health, well-being, isolation and socialisation, in particular for those who are most marginalised.

With funding from NHS Charities Together through Cardiff & Vale Health Charity, Grow Well was able to implement a two-year strategy to increase project capacity to support more local patients, further expand the garden sites at both the Dusty Forge & Lansdowne Surgery through newly acquired land, develop a new community garden site in the grounds of Riverside Health Centre, support patients to harvest and cook their own produce, collaborate with the Wildlife Trust to enable patients to further develop the gardens as nature havens. This was made possible by securing the funding to employ Grow Well Project Facilitators to run weekly sessions across three project sites and working with University of South Wales and the Wales School for Social Prescribing Research (WSSPR) and patients to co-produce a monitoring and evaluation tool that will quantify health and well-being outcomes for patients.

Claire Terry, Occupational Therapist, describes the positive outcome of a participant who was referred to the Grow Well project by his GP, after seeking support with depression.

“Over time, he shared more of himself with us at the group, sharing recipe ideas for our garden soup, and bringing us a pumpkin he had grown to help make the soup. One week he shared a poem with a small group, which was inspired by his fascination with nature. It was a really lovely moment, as a new attendee who also loved poetry was there for the first time. Once the compost project was finished, after collaboration with a few different members of the group, he was ready to move on to another project. He worked with a different volunteer to share ideas and come up with a plan to make a gutter to collect water from our polytunnel. Again, he showed his patience and listening skills, with a good helping of humour in working on this project week by week.”

The findings from the project demonstrate the wide range of positive outcomes for a variety of populations needs, including those living with long term physical and mental conditions. Community gardens can offer non-clinical preventative methods of social prescription using nature-based solutions to promote health and wellbeing. Given the diverse benefits, community gardens can be used as infrastructural assets for both the community-based interventions and those co-located in primary care, supporting a changing healthcare system.

Cardiff & Vale Health Charity are proud that a case study of this story has been shared on the NHS Charities Together Wall of Achievement.

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