A gardening project is about to begin at HMP Wandsworth to improve the mental wellbeing of prisoners and provide “life opportunities”.
A Gardening Against the Odds project by the Conservation Foundation, Unlocking Nature will add green areas to three exercise yards and other central parts of the prison which are currently covered with tarmac. The project will involve men residing in the prison, staff, members of the local community, leading horticulturists and environmental groups.
The Foundation appointed Adolfo Harrison, an award winning garden designer to lead the project and Chris Collins, the former Blue Peter gardener and Garden Organic’s head of Organic Horticulture, as the project manager.
The hope is that the green areas will provide a healthier and more natural atmosphere for inmates and staff. Research shows that green spaces can reduce symptoms of poor mental health and stress. A natural 'green' environment can also reduce violence, aggression and anti-social behaviour.
As well as growing food and health plants, plans for the prison also include spaces for bees and chickens.
Director of the Conservation Foundation David Shreeve said: “We have been presenting Gardening Against the Odds awards to other organisations and individuals for several years and always wanted to create some projects ourselves.
“Hopefully Unlocking Nature marks the start of other initiatives to show how practical gardening activities really can make a difference to minds, spirits and life opportunities.
“Creating a new environment within Wandsworth will not be easy, but there is a huge amount of enthusiasm to make it happen and we believe it is a challenge well worth undertaking.”