Ayr horticultural therapy garden for troubled ex-soldiers reopened

A refurbished horticultural therapy garden for veterans in Ayrshire has been officially opened by Victoria Cross recipient Sgt. Johnson Beharry.

L-R Helen Moonie, Sgt.Johnson Beharry VC, Joan Sturgeon and Jim Todd. Image: ISS
L-R Helen Moonie, Sgt.Johnson Beharry VC, Joan Sturgeon and Jim Todd. Image: ISS

Run by charity Gardening Leave, and built by ISS Facility Services Landscaping, the project at Auchincruive now contains a network of raised wooden vegetable, herb and flower beds with level garden paths. ISS both did the work and partly funded the project.

Using gardening therapy, the charity helps veterans on their journey to good health and their transition to civilian life. The new raised beds are an important feature for the veterans who attend Gardening Leave, who may be suffering flash backs, hyper-vigilance and physical insecurity.

Veterans working either side can reach the whole bed and can talk to each or their horticultural therapists while they work. The best, most open conversations can be had while people work side by side. As the beds back on to each other, veterans can become used to having someone behind them moving around which then helps them get used to
all sorts of activities from shopping to attending events in the community.

Many staff from ISS Landscaping's Kilmarnock office volunteered their time to carry out the refurbishment work. Phil Jones, managing director of ISS Landscaping, said: "ISS is fully committed to the Armed Forces community both with our collaboration with Gardening Leave and other sustainable community work we undertake with our defence clients such as Carillion Amey.

"The response of our own staff at Auchincruive has been overwhelming with our employees giving voluntarily of their own time. In fact at Auchincruive 32 members of staff gave up their weekend to ensure that the horticultural therapy garden was completed on time."

Sgt. Beharry was awarded the UK's highest military honour after twice saving members of his unit from ambushes in Al-Amarah, Iraq, in 2004.

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