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Green thumbed staff create wellbeing garden at children's centre


Two caring members of staff from Rhuddlan Children’s Centre have transformed an overgrown area into a ‘sanctuary’ for all staff to use. 

The wellbeing garden was created by green thumbs Suzanne Harris, and Don Wasdell, both Community Children Support Workers. 

The garden showcases new pots, chairs, tables and plants which were sourced or donated by the local community. The garden also has hanging baskets with strawberrys and summer plants, as well as boxes with runner beans, tomatoes and onions. 

Gardening has become a real therapeutic benefit for Suzanne who has had her own wellbeing challenges. 

Suzanne explains: “In 2012 my son, who was serving with the First Battalion Welsh Guards, was left with life changing injuries when his vehicle was detonated by an IED bomb in Afghanistan. When he was discharged I became very unwell, and I was off work for many months. I was under Occupational Health in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and my doctor advised a ‘Green Prescription’, he told me I needed to get out in green spaces, to walk and take in nature, to help with anxiety and stress.   

“On returning to work in the Rhuddlan Children’s Centre, there is a bit of waste land behind the offices. I used to go to the window daily and look out thinking this would be a nice space for staff to be able to sit out, have their breaks and take in nature, as there are a lot of trees around but didn't do any more than that. 

“As we all know Covid-19 hit us all in March 2020 and we lost most of our staff being redeployed to other areas of the Health Board, however we gained a couple of staff due to Covid risk assessments, including Don, who I have been friends with for 35 years and is a keen gardener like myself. 

“One day I asked him if he would be willing to help me clear all the undergrowth and weeds away so we could make a garden and he agreed.” 

Suzanne and Don started in July 2020 during their spare time and days off coming in to clear the area, cleaning and repairing outdoor furniture, sourcing donations and planting flowers. 

The centre received various donations including Suzanne’s husband making planters from old railway sleepers, which now hold herbs and flowers.  Don upcycled donated wooden chairs, and they received a bird table and plant box for wildflowers to attract bees and insects to the garden. 

The duo also encouraged other staff and their families to get involved and become part of the garden project. 

Suzanne added: “I have entered us into a sunflower competition run by the little Cornish seed company, which is a nationwide competition of sunflower growing. I purchased the sunflower seeds from the company, then gave a seed each labelled with a pot and a bag of compost to staff who had children, to grow the sunflowers. When they got bigger we transplanted them into our garden, and we are looking after them so they will grow and look over the wall.  

“Wellbeing is a major part of our service, and when staff visit Rhuddlan they now have a safe space to sit and have breaks, and we’ve even had team meetings in the garden on good days. 

“I do all the plants from seed or cuttings, and Don does the manual work that needs doing.  They call us "Bill and Ben" in the office. It all looks lovely and now we get birds visiting and all of our flowers, herbs and vegetables are bee friendly, so looking after nature as well."

Nerys Pritchard, Community Children’s Nurse Team Manager, said: “The garden looks lovely, they’ve transformed the space into a little slice of heaven – a sanctuary. Suzanne is really passionate about wellbeing, and she's lovingly created a garden for everyone to use, a place for staff to sit and be happy. They both sourced and upcycled donations, flower cuttings and the garden has become a place that brings our staff together.”