Wendy sitting on her sofa, smiling



Wendy, 59, moved into her Grand Union home in a Bedfordshire village in 1994, having lived in the village since the age of 14.

Two years ago, after a serious illness, a social prescriber suggested gardening therapy to help with her mental health issues.

“I joined Grand Union’s Gardening for Wellbeing group; I was one of the first to join.

“I love gardening, so I was keen on the idea, but I was so worried about meeting people. I was really nervous before that first session, worried about what would happen.

“But there were only three people there and Emma Dagless, Grand Union’s Wellbeing Coordinator, was very nice, she really understood.

“It’s become a really nice group – there’s just five of us. During spring, summer and autumn, we garden for a couple of hours on a Tuesday afternoon in Flitwick, sowing seeds, preparing ground, weeding, propagating plants etc.

Wendy doing some gardening outside her home

“During the second winter, when we were not gardening, I joined a 12-week healthy eating cookery class, also run by Grand Union. There were four of us there from the gardening sessions.

“I really enjoyed it, trying a lot of food I’d not tried before. We made burgers with hidden vegetables to make them healthier, granola bars and oatcakes, as well as soups and pancakes, and learning other tips, for example using broccoli stalks in our cooking.

“I’m now using more herbs in my food to make my food taste different and I’m making a lot more meals from scratch.”

Not content with just gardening and cooking, Wendy then decided to do some volunteering, and has been helping out for a few hours every week at activity days at our older persons’ scheme at Beverley Court in Clophill.

“I really like helping and talking to older people, they have a lot of stories and songs, and they’re more chatty now they’ve got to know me.

“We do lots of arts and crafts, which is something I enjoy anyway. We make seasonal things, like firework pictures and Christmas cards and cooked with pumpkins. We’ve made flowers with tissue paper and pipe cleaners, and we’ve been knitting too!

“Knitting is something I’ve always done. I started making toy queens from a knitting pattern and have sold them to people all over the world, including Europe, the USA and even Australia, for a lady who’d met the late Queen and wanted me to knit her in the same ‘outfit’ as the one she’d worn that day.

Knitted dolls that look like the late Queen Elizabeth

“I love my hobbies – gardening, knitting and crafting – as well as spending time with my grandchildren and I just love helping people too.”

“I think it’s good that Grand Union offer these services as it’s really helped me with my mental health to be with other people and get me out of my house.”

Wellbeing Coordinator Emma added: “It’s great to see Wendy’s progress, seeing her confidence grow to help out at activity days where she’s meeting a different group of people. It’s also lovely to see the gardeners in the Gardening for Wellbeing group becoming more confident, harvesting and eating what we grow.”