The military charity and conservation charity have been working together for several years now. Over the 12 months a new project has seen Help for Heroes veterans, their families and volunteers coppicing hazels from Essex Wildlife Trust land. They have then been taught the new skill of weaving hazel hurdle fences which were recently installed into the ‘Hope on the Horizon’ garden at The Help for Heroes Colchester Recovery Centre.
Steve Schollar, Head of Recovery East and Midlands, said: “This project has proved to be an effective recovery activity. It has enabled our veterans to get out in the fresh air with those who may be experiencing similar issues and has taught them a new skill which hopefully will boost confidence. Several veterans have also reported that weaving the hazel hurdle fences has helped to reduce anxiety as they focus on the task in hand”.
The award-winning garden, which won the People’s Choice Award at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2014, is a haven for veterans and their families. It is extremely well used with people taking Pilates classes, practicing mindfulness or having family picnics on the grass and amongst the flowers.
Andrew Impey, CEO of Essex Wildlife Trust, said: “This is a partnership that we are immensely proud about. The veterans, their families and volunteers have helped us carry out important habitat management; hazel coppicing is a crucial part of keeping ancient woodland and its wildlife healthy and diverse. Now we look forward to seeing what wildlife joins the veterans in enjoying the beautiful garden”.
One veteran remarked: “It been hard work coppicing the hazels; we’ve had some very cold, wet and windy days over the last year. It has however been worth it. The fences provide a certain separation from the military fences and makes it that little bit more like home. I love spending time in this garden. If I come to the Centre not having a great day and my mood is low I only have to spend a few moments in the garden and my spirits are lifted”.
The partnership hopes that the project will not only Help our Heroes but help our local wildlife by encouraging it into Colchester Recovery Centre. Plans are already being made for Essex Wildlife Trust to teach the veteran’s children how to make bug boxes and hedgehog hotels from scratch.