Anyone who has done yoga or tried meditation knows about calling up your “beautiful place”, the place you imagine when you want to rest your thoughts. It can be anywhere where you feel things are in the right place for you, a room, a landscape, a garden. My beautiful place is the walled garden at Quex Park.
I go a few times a year with friends who are volunteer gardeners – it’s their beautiful place too.
I get a thrill when I go through the door marked “Staff only”, to the secret garden where the basic maintenance is done – where seedlings grow, cuttings are taken and the benches painted.
The last time I went there were new volunteers – painting a bench and really enjoying the job and each other’s company. They are part of a new initiative by the head gardener, Sue Harris, which she thinks of as “giving back”.
She says: “We at the garden and house are, in a way, custodians of a place of privilege, intended for the few to enjoy.” They plan to “give back” that privilege to members of the community that need it more than most.
She is now welcoming people with mental health needs and learning disabilities to come with their carers to learn how to be gardeners, or just to come for a walk in a beautiful, calming place.
Many people with learning disabilities are not physically fit enough to cope with gardening work so Sue looked around for ways they could enjoy the garden. The plan is to create spots where people can sit and chat, have a cuppa, or just enjoy the peace and quiet.
When I was there we sat under a huge tree, drinking coffee and talking to the hens who are another recent addition. An unproductive border has become a henhouse so now the walled garden is populated with friendly birds who eat the slugs and insects and cluck welcome to all.
We are losing trees to new developments all over Thanet but there is something magical about sitting under big trees – and in a place that values its woodland so they are safe!
There’s a log cabin planned and a summer house in another tucked away spot where courses can run and people can meet in fresh air. This has become vitally important in covid times where closed indoor spaces make it easier for the virus to spread.
But much more than virus safety is the contribution the park can make to mental health As Sue says: “The benefits of handling plants, soil and natural materials directly help with mental wellbeing as well as the psychological aspects of feeling useful.”
I don’t have the muscle power to do any physical work at Quex but I can appreciate sitting watching chickens pecking for insects, smelling the lavender and watching the bees enjoy the flowers. And in the gloomy days of what might be another lockdown I shall go there in my head for a memory of peace and stillness.
Quex has many activities on offer a great museum, shops and restaurant but the best part for me is the walled garden.
That’s why I shall go and renew my memories as often as I can.
To find out more about Quex and volunteering email via their website https://www.quexpark.co.uk/contact-us/