The great outdoors and the natural world have long been associated with good mental health and wellbeing. For those living in urban areas, gardens and open spaces can be a refuge to help people maintain good emotional wellbeing.
This was what many people in Alperton expressed at the Alperton Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Forum in May 2021. The event – part of the Brent Health Matters programme to address health inequality issues in the borough – brought together council and health services with community organisations and residents.
Together the group formed ideas on how to create greater emotional resilience, expand knowledge of local services and support those with mental health difficulties within Alperton. One of the key issues raised was a lack of safe spaces where the community could gather to interact with one another and feel comfortable talking about mental health. Coupled with the benefits of nature, the idea for a community garden was developed.
Working with the community, Brent Council’s Public Health and Parks teams identified a site at One Tree Hill recreation ground. The Forum agreed that the garden would be taken on by local residents and a working group was formed to oversee progress and lead on the running of the garden once it was ready for use.
In addition to the space being used for people to connect with one another, be more active and enjoy the great outdoors, the group also expressed a desire to grow food and give the produce to those in the neighbourhood most in need. Accordingly the council provided residents with two new large planters, with soil, seeds and tools.
Cllr Neil Nerva, Brent’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Culture and Leisure, spoke at a launch event at One Tree Hill this week, saying, “This is a brilliant project and a great local resource, but more than that it is a terrific example of what the Brent Health Matters programme is all about. If we are to truly address health inequalities and meet the needs of all of our residents we must listen and act upon what we are being told. Not make decisions for the communities we serve, but with the communities we serve.”
One of the Brent Health Matters Community Champions involved in listening to local people and helping the project develop was local resident Evelyn Chen. She said, “As an avid supporter of access to food equality, I think that the garden will provide healthy and organic alternatives to the community. Hopefully, the garden can also spark an interest in horticulture and healthy eating, two hobbies that can enhance your mental and physical wellbeing.”
Wembley Central and Alperton Residents’ Association have been a key partner in the development of the garden. Their Chairman, Chirag Gir, said, “There are plenty of families in the area who are not fortunate enough to have a garden they can enjoy, so we hope they can make the most of this great community garden to learn, play and grow together.”
PHOTO: Local residents celebrating the launch of the new One Tree Hill community garden along with Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of the Council (far right), Cllr Neil Nerva, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Culture and Leisure (in fluorescent green), Cllr Krupa Sheth Cabinet Member for Environment and Ward Member for Wembley Central (in red) and Chirag Gir, Chairman of Wembley Central and Alperton Residents’ Association (far left).