Nurtured by nature: how green spaces can provide a welcome sanctuary
Wanda and Marley, her golden retriever at St Ann’s allotments
When the first lockdown exacerbated Wanda Mayer’s anxiety and caused her to have a series of panic attacks, she knew exactly where to go: the allotment she calls her ‘haven’. Thanks to National Lottery Funding, projects have been bringing communities together, and supporting mental health.
Wanda, 41, said, “The lockdown was stressful for me. I started having panic attacks and it escalated. At one point I had to call an ambulance because I just couldn’t breathe.
“That’s why the allotment has been a godsend. It was nice to go somewhere that was private, peaceful and calming. A place where you can just hear birds and nature.”
Wanda’s sanctuary is part of St Ann’s Allotments, a 75-acre piece of land just 1.5km from the centre of Nottingham.
Once used as pleasure gardens for the city’s middle classes, the vast site fell into dereliction about 30 years ago. In 2008, the organisation was awarded £4.5 Million of National Lottery funding that helped kickstart a massive restoration project.
Allotment Manager Nicola Hinton said St Ann’s 670 allotments had stayed open to gardeners (but not the general public) throughout the lockdown. Only two people were allowed on each plot at once and social distancing rules were observed in communal areas.
Nicola said, “It’s clear from the feedback we’ve had from allotment holders that staying open had a huge impact on their physical and mental health and wellbeing. It has also given gardeners the chance to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, spend time in nature and grow fresh fruit and vegetables.”
St Ann’s celebrated the role allotments have played in helping people cope with the stress of lockdown by holding a competition to find the Best Allotment 2020. The competition was judged by the public who chose the winner from a shortlist published on St Ann’s social media channels.
Allotment holders like Wanda already felt like winners. Under the watchful eye of Marley, her Golden Retriever, she planted a good selection of courgettes, cabbages, potatoes, sweetcorn and tomatoes.
She said, “Gardening is what calms me down. I can be really down, but if I come up here and do something my mood changes.”
Thanks to players of The National Lottery, £30 million is raised for Good Causes every week, funding projects like St Ann’s Allotments and helping communities come together across the UK.