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Gardening Against The Odds

Conservation Foundation to ‘green’ HMP Wandsworth, one of Europe’s biggest prisons
A prisoner in the D wing of Wandsworth prison in London

The Conservation Foundation is about to start a Gardening Against The Odds project to ‘green’ areas within one of Europe’s largest prisons, HMP Wandsworth.

’A new atmosphere’

The project will transform three exercise yards and other central parts of the prison currently covered with tarmac and surrounded with stone walls.

There is currently little or no green space within the prison and men will be encouraged to suggest what they would want to see from their cells and in the areas where they exercise.

The Foundation has 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 consultant.

They will develop suggestions into plans which will transform the prison’s environment in the hope of bringing a completely new atmosphere totally unknown in HMP Wandsworth’s 160-year history.

160-year-old views

Little has been done to bring any form of Nature into the prison’s life. The views from the cells today are the same as those seen by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Ronnie Biggs and thousands of others who have served time in this world-famous South London institution.

Research shows that contact with green spaces can reduce symptoms of poor mental health and stress, as well as violence, aggression and antisocial behaviour.

The aims of the project include improving relationships amongst the men and staff, providing work experience and communications, building confidence, developing skills and qualifications and increasing support for families.

A prisoner stands outside his cell on C wing of Wandsworth prison. Getty Images
Prisoners return from their jobs to their wings for lunch at Wandsworth prison. Getty Images

Unlocking Nature

The Conservation Foundation has been working at HMP Wandsworth in 2005 through its Tools Shed project, which repairs broken and unwanted garden hand tools in a prison workshop and gives the ‘new’ tools to local schools and community groups.

The project won the 2014 Community P.E.A. Award for equipping a new generation of gardeners, providing skills and work for prisoners and reducing waste.

Tools Shed has been taken up since by Edinburgh and Dartmoor Prisons and will be expanded to further English prisons in 2017.

‘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.’

Director of the Conservation Foundation

The Conservation Foundation would welcome any help in creating green areas from the horticulture trade. As well as growing food and health plants, the plans include places for chickens and bees.

Click here to find out more about the Conservation Foundation.

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