Liz Truss MP ‘digs’ Norfolk gardening project for people at risk of loneliness

  • Last updated: 16 September 2022

A therapeutic gardening project in Norfolk which brings people together to reduce isolation and loneliness has been praised by local MP, Liz Truss.

The Growing Communities Project is run by charities Garden Organic and Family Action at the ESCAPE Allotment in Swaffham. The team welcomed Chief Secretary to the Treasury and MP for South West Norfolk, Liz Truss, for a tour on Friday (3 May) to highlight the great work of the project.

During the visit, Mrs Truss heard how the project, made possible by a £388,000 grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, brings people together who may be at risk of social isolation, including people who are elderly or unemployed.

She met local people who use the allotment and project staff, as well as ‘Master Gardeners’, trained volunteers who lead activities and provide gardening advice in the local community to organisations that have communal gardens, including residential homes, schools and libraries.

Local people who attend the ESCAPE Allotment undertake therapeutic gardening activities, learn new organic horticultural and life skills, and are encouraged to improve their physical and mental health, mainly by interacting with other people local to them. Workshops include apple pressing, cooking and green woodworking.

Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and MP for south west Norfolk, said:

It was fantastic to visit the ESCAPE allotments and see the excellent work done to support this project. Funding from the National Lottery has brought together people of ages and backgrounds with therapeutic gardening, horticultural and life skills. The commitment and enthusiasm from all those involved is great to see.”

The project addresses issues that can affect mental health, including loneliness and social isolation. During its first year, the volunteer Master Gardeners clocked up over 1600 hours of donated time.

James Campbell, Chief Executive of Garden Organic, said: “Garden Organic is incredibly grateful for the support we receive from The National Lottery Community Fund. Gardening is a fantastic way to bring people together, learning new skills and sharing successes. We are very proud of the achievements of all those involved in the Growing Communities project and were delighted to be able to share these today with the Rt. Hon. Liz Truss MP and The National Lottery Community Fund team.”

Working throughout Breckland and West Norfolk, the project’s outreach arm reaches out to local communities throughout the two districts working with, encouraging and supporting people to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

James Harcourt, Head of England Funding at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “The Growing Communities Project at ESCAPE Allotment is a fantastic example of a charity helping its local community to thrive and tackling social issues including loneliness. It’s wonderful to see so many different groups across Norfolk benefitting from National Lottery funding, and we’re delighted Liz Truss MP was able to see and experience the excellent work of this project.”

The project is always on the look-out for new volunteers to get involved and will be holding training in Downham Market on Sat 1st and Sun 2nd July. Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering should contact Becky Reavill, or 07454 509692