Community gardening could build social cohesion, survey by Chelsea Flower Show garden sponsor finds.

Community gardening could be the answer to better community cohesion, helping to bring neighbourhoods back together in the way that the village shop or post office used to, a new survey suggests.

The survey, from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, which is sponsoring a Chelsea Flower Show garden, questioned people about their views on community life, to find out what makes people feel engaged in their local community and whether a community garden could provide a support network for those who feel lonely and disconnected - a problem experienced by a growing number of soldiers when they leave the Army and find themselves without the support that military life provides.

The results show that whilst almost three in five (58 per cent) British adults say that they don’t know people within their community well and 69 per cent do not currently take part in any activities within their local community, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) would get involved in a community garden if they had the opportunity.

Nearly two in five (37 per cent) think it would help them feel more engaged with their local neighbourhood. Crucially, almost a third (31 per cent) of those who admitted to regularly feeling lonely believed a community garden would offer them a support network.

Martin Rutledge, chief executive of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, who carried out the research, said: "Studies have shown that getting to know people in your local area can have a big impact on how happy and secure you feel. Studies of community gardens support this, showing how collective gardening can bring communities together by creating a social structure arising from collective effort and shared goals, helping to bridge social barriers and ultimately bring people together."

The healing properties of gardens and gardening is the focus of several projects that ABF The Soldiers’ Charity are undertaking this year. 

‘No Mans Land’ is the charity's first garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show which is marking the centenary of World War One.

Through the military charity HighGround, The Soldiers’ Charity has also recently supported a horticultural therapist to support work at Headley Court - the Ministry of Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey. 

Carol Sales will be using horticultural therapy as part of Headley Court’s rehabilitation programme to return some of the injured or seriously ill members of the British Armed Forces to full fitness.

She said: "Gardening provides a way to interact with nature, people and the environment, to socialise and to build trust and develop pride in what you have grown, sharing stories and successes with your colleagues, wherever you might be. A community garden provides more than social connection, trust and reciprocal relationships; it provides something to which you can belong. It is good for the soul."

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