Gardening for Wellbeing sessions at RHS Garden Bridgewater 

Lee’s Story

Lee started on the Gardening for Wellbeing sessions at RHS Bridgewater following a referral through social prescribing from his local Community Connector back in July 2023.

Lee had been referred once before in the previous year but his battle with anxiety and depression at that time were too debilitating for him to complete his 16 weeks of sessions. The following year he was referred again, but this time completed all of his sessions and is now taking his journey in gardening to the next level.

What started as a bit of pottering about turned into not only a new career prospect, but a lifeline for his health and wellbeing.

Lee shares his story in the hope that it will help inspire others who might be struggling with their mental health.

“Hi, my names Lee. Here’s a bit about my journey with the RHS and my own health battles that it helped me overcome.

Having dealt with depression and anxiety for a third of my life I assumed there wasn’t much prospect for me. I’d previously worked demanding, high stress jobs but over time my deteriorating health meant I was no longer able to cope so well.

Then I stumbled onto something that made a real difference – gardening. At first I started pottering about in my own garden after watching YouTube tutorials. Then, following a GP referral I started attending the RHS Bridgewater wellness sessions every Monday. This later turned out to be my safe space, and it further fuelled a real love for gardening that the ‘old me’ didn’t see coming.

Working at RHS Bridgewater was a game changer. It wasn’t just about picking up gardening skills, it felt like I’d found my thing. The bug bit me hard, and suddenly gardening wasn’t just a hobby, it looked like it could actually become a career option.

Then came the volunteering, from a Hedgehog Rescue, to teaming up with The Wildlife Trust and Salford Rangers. It was like I found my tribe, all united by a love for the great outdoors. Getting hands on with nature, seasons, and wildlife turned into a rhythm that kept me going. I even wrote and illustrated my first ever storybook aimed at young children and how they can help hedgehogs in their own gardens.

Back home, my garden became my escape, my own little haven. Taking care of plants and watching them grow became my therapy. It was my way of shutting out the chaos and finding peace.

Teaming up with neighbours to spruce up our community green spaces added a whole new layer. It wasn’t just about making things look good, it was about building connections and making our community better. I even made a DIY allotment at the bottom of my garden to try my hand at chicken keeping and growing my own food! I’ve never done either before but now I’m not scared of trying.

The RHS Horticultural Apprenticeship Program felt like the next natural step, a way to turn my passion into a real career. It’s not just about gardening anymore, it’s about growing myself, personally and professionally.

Looking back, this journey into gardening is more than just digging and planting. It’s been a lifeline, a way to rebuild and find purpose. Each step, from the rough times where I lost two jobs within 6 months of each other due to my ill health, to the volunteer hours, has shaped me into not just a gardener but someone who’s all about cherishing nature and growing alongside it.

Now, as I embark on what could hopefully be the next chapter with the RHS apprenticeship program, I’m grateful for stumbling onto gardening. It’s more than just a hobby or a job prospect, it’s been a life saver, turning my days (and chilly nights by the fire) into a life of purpose, community, and the simple, renewing beauty of the outdoors.”