Swindon Soroptimists mark the Coronation
On a pleasant May morning, seven members of Swindon Soroptimists, plus two friends, gathered at TWIGS (Therapeutic Work in Gardening Swindon), with their favourite trowels in hand! We were there to mark the Coronation of King Charles III, after King Charles and the Royal Family appealed to people across the UK to sign up to the King’s Big Help Out, a day of national volunteering, saying,
In tribute to His Majesty The King’s public service, The Big Help Out is encouraging people to try volunteering for themselves and join the work being undertaken to support their local areas. The aim of The Big Help Out is to use volunteering to bring communities together and create a lasting volunteering legacy from the Coronation weekend.
King Charles is renowned for his passion for gardening, and for voicing concern for environmental causes, so we thought local project TWIGS was an ideal choice for the King’s Big Help Out. TWIGS Community Gardens are a colourful vibrant set of gardens in the heart of Swindon. They are managed to give people who experience mental health problems the chance to regain confidence, self-esteem and to learn new skills. Up to one in four people in the UK will experience mental health issues during their lives, and TWIGS provides places for work on garden projects, as well as work-related opportunities in the linked café, the Olive Tree Café.
We at Swindon Soroptimists have supported TWIGS since 2009 by visiting and advertising their Open Days, purchasing plants, and visiting the café; we’ve even previously volunteered there as part of the Soroptimist Day Of Action for Climate Change in 2022. Climate action is an issue close to the heart of King Charles, and even a small project like this garden ameliorates climate change; this is vital as UN Women have found that women and girls experience the greatest impacts of climate change because it amplifies existing inequalities, such as the disproportionate responsibility placed on women overseas for securing food, water and fuel.
We were pleased to have the South West Regional President (and member of Swindon Soroptimists!) Valerie Nuttall helping us. She commented, “TWIGS is such a worthwhile cause so I am pleased the Swindon Club can provide this service to help support people who experience mental health issues.”
Armed with an array of tools, gloves and kneelers (most of which were kindly provided by TWIGS), our team of intrepid gardeners tackled bindweed, geum and other weeds hiding amongst the beautiful flower beds, with three brave souls tackling knee high stinging nettles!
Rozza is experienced at identifying and removing bindweed, so lent her hands to battling bindweed in the gardens. We managed to get a photo before she got started!
We were all delighted to have a mid-morning break, and we gratefully accepted coffee and biscuits from fellow volunteers Susie & Josie. However there was much work to be done, so then it was back to clearing and weeding paths, saving many pretty wildflowers for staff to re-plant elsewhere.
Back at work
Alison and Jackie returned to clearing the paths for visitors, but happily they and their wheelbarrow of tools were able to pause for a photo!
By lunchtime all were tired and looking forward to lunch at the excellent Olive Tree café. Manager of TWIGS Alan Holland thanked the group, saying, “I’ve just walked through the gardens and seen all the wonderful work you’ve done. I can really see the difference you’ve made. It’s very much appreciated!”