Our five-acre flower and vegetable garden in the grounds of Midlothian Community Hospital is a sanctuary, a social hub and a place to relax and get their hands dirty for hospital in-patients and around 23 regular volunteers. Our gardens give hospital patients and people from the wider community the chance to grow food, socialise and become more active.
With support from volunteers and visiting groups, our 40 flower beds and greenhouse yield organic produce year-round from exotic varieties like grapes and figs to berries, leafy greens and root vegetables.
Val, 71, a former social work administrator, started volunteering one day a week at our garden after retiring five years ago. “There’s an emptiness when you retire,” explains Val who comes with her dog, Rye. “No one prepares you for that but now I’m busy every day of the week.
“There’s a list of things to do and you choose what you want to do and when to do it. I’m not doing a lot of heavy digging because of my back but I do plenty of weeding, cutting and planting up in the green house.”
In addition to the volunteers, our garden is visited by patients from the dementia and assessment wards who come through a buddy service run by the hospital, who enjoy taking part in therapeutic green activities. Spending time in nature is proven to boost wellbeing and aid recovery, and the garden is partly funded by NHS Lothian to benefit hospital in-patients, staff and visitors.
Young people having difficulty fitting into school and people with support needs also come to the garden to learn new skills and build up their confidence, and we also welcome school groups.
Since being established six years ago on a plot of land with nothing but paths and a wooden hut, the garden has expanded to include a green house, raised beds, landscaping, an efficient rain water collection system and a substantial steel framed shed which is being fitted with a kitchen.
“We’ve done the whole thing so far without electricity or running water,” says Ian, a retired teacher and administrator, who began volunteering in 2012 when the gardens opened. “We’re hoping to put solar panels on the roof of the shed which will supply electricity for a generator. We’ve also got plans to improve the drainage and have underground water tanks which can store 8,500 litres of water.”
We boost the garden’s income with social enterprise projects including an annual open day which raised £1,200 this year and by potting up and selling seasonal bulbs to hospital visitors.
Jenny, a nurse who took voluntary redundancy, drives from Musselburgh to volunteer every Monday. “I like the people I meet here,” she says. “They’re very friendly and you never feel out of place. Everyone is welcome and I like what Cyrenians stands for.”
Scot, who worked as a tax manager before running his own gardening business, volunteers twice a week. “In the old days I’d be sitting in my office looking out of my window on a day like this when the sun is shining and say to myself: what am I doing here? And now I’m outside where I like to be.”
Our beautiful community garden is open to visitors and volunteers on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays 10-4. Anyone can volunteer there on a drop-in basis. We also welcome school groups and offer team building days at the garden for corporates. Contact us on 0131 475 2354 or click here to find out more about coming to our garden!