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GOOD NEWS stories>
Highground at Headley Court
Carol's column
Horseferry Road
Rural weeks
PR and MEdia
Research Research
It’s bank holiday Monday and the swallows are getting ready to fly South for the Winter, as I sit at home in Northumberland to tell you about what we have been doing at HighGround. In June I went with Sami to Rail Live in Warwickshire to learn more about employment opportunities for ex military people in the rail industry. Big thanks to Development Board member Simon Higgens for opening so many doors –a fascinating 2 days!
Later in June Carol and her husband Frank (also a Development Board member) joined me at Holker Hall for the 3 day garden festival. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and tell them about HighGround, all in great weather and wonderful surroundings – thank you Tor and Lucy and all your team for such brilliant hospitality.
Moving South, the RHS kindly invited me to their seminar at Hampton Court Flower Show. It was fascinating to see how the understanding of the therapeutic benefits of gardening and horticulture has evolved since I started working in this sector in 2005. I have been invited to speak at a Horticultural Therapy conference in Sydney in October – I wonder how far they have got Down Under..?!!
Cobseo’s AGM at the Victory Services Club had a great vibe, and it was really encouraging to see so many new members – we really are all on the same team...
Earlier this month I went to my first Rare Breeds Survival Trust AGM. During our Rural Weeks we have had a lot of feedback from people who want to know more about Smallholding and Haydn and Lee have been our pathfinders, the former in Wales and the latter in France so this gave me the opportunity to learn more about RBST and I’m really excited about working with them in the future.
Anna Baker Cresswell signarure

Anna Baker Cresswell
Founder and Development Director

HighGround at Headley Court
Carol has been as busy as ever at Headley Court, and we are all still reeling from the shock of the Duke of Westminster’s tragic and untimely death. His vision of a new Headley Court at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire will be his legacy.
The Gardening Volunteers team is now up to full strength (welcome Richard!) and they are making a huge difference. Carol delivered 352 sessions of Horticultural Therapy to 101 patients in the Summer quarter, here’s how she did it...
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Carol’s Column
The summer has lately been nothing short of tropical here at Headley Court and shade has been in short supply. However some of our plants have thrived with the constant sunshine, especially some members of the Allium family. As an experiment we have grown onions from sets and seeds. The patient who has been leading on this project harvested the produce and we can safely say onions from seed wins hands down.
Harvesting onions
The earlier wet, warm weather encouraged the development of rust on our beloved garlic – not happy! We managed to rescue the crop and have some useable garlic. The Elephant garlic remained unaffected and has produced some real whoppers!

In the greenhouse the tomatoes (all 24 varieties!) and chillies have been really enjoying the weather alongside whitefly, clouds and clouds of the little pesky creatures. We have had tasting sessions with the tomatoes and currently the favourites are Gardeners Delight, White Queen and Marmande. I feel at this point I should make a confession... I hate tomatoes. The taste, the smell, the green yuk that comes off the leaves – need I go on? So why grow so many?

Well just for a change it’s not about me! The care and attention the plants receive plus harvesting fits in very nicely with therapy goals. The big bonus is that many tomatoes are used in cooking therapy and are taken home for families to enjoy together which is so important for patients reconnecting with their families.
Turning up the heat with Chillies
Chillies, that’s another matter. The chillies are doing really well and have been visited by whitefly too. We have over 40 varieties (I have only just counted for the purpose of this newsletter and I am shocked). They are all shapes, sizes, colours and varying heat. Some brave souls have tried a few to date but the real naughty ones are just beginning to ripen. These are from the Habanero group which are notorious for their extreme heat but also ‘smoky’ flavour. Watch this space...

The tomatoes are beginning to look sad at this time of the year but the chillies take over and fill the space with colour. As always the greenhouse remains the hub of all our activities, especially as we have a kettle and tea bags!

We have recently been working with the RHS Wisley raising awareness of horticultural therapy. We held a workshop here at Headley Court for some of their staff to experience the dark art. We began with a tour of the clinical environment including the very intimidating gym, the sea of white coats and various unexciting treatment areas which gave a sense of how it might feel to be away from green! Next stop the horticultural therapy area and there were audible sighs of relief. Then the fun began! I had visited our prosthetics department to borrow various splints, braces, body splints, crutches and tape to bind up fingers. I presented the said items and invited all to try them out.

I then gave them tasks to carry out in the gardens to experience how it might feel to try to carry out practical work with restrictions and then after the exercise to reflect on their achievements in spite of the obvious difficulties. We then looked at various clinical referrals and how they could be mapped across to purposeful activity in a horticultural setting. Of course with cups of tea and biscuits! The morning was declared a success and I hope to take patients to RHS Wisley for a practical session.
Horticultural therapy workshopwith RHS WisleyHorticultural therapy workshopwith RHS Wisley
The project to improve RAFBF beneficiaries’ gardens is going well. All gardens have now been surveyed and the designs completed by myself. The exciting part is just beginning! The designs are out for tender with local contractors and hopefully in my next newsletter the first will be completed. Fingers firmly crossed.

‘Home Thoughts’ garden has loved the weather too. All of the planting has filled out very well and even the fruit trees have given us produce. We have picked plums and apples from trees only planted last autumn – thank you Hortus Loci. Many patients are using and enjoying the garden during the daytime and evenings. Without our team of volunteers it would become a jungle in a very short space of time. Every week without fail they weed, dead head, edge up and water to ensure this special place is looking its very best. We are very lucky to have our volunteers and really appreciate their vital support at Headley Court. Visit our blog to see some great photos of our progress.

I have had the great pleasure recently of working with a patient who is a very talented photographer. He has discovered the wonder of the world about us, plants in particular. He has been experiencing extreme pain amongst other issues and he has found learning to grow and photograph our working area a real distraction. I felt his talent should be nurtured and arranged for him to meet with our friend Charlie Hopkinson who always takes such wonderful photographs at all of our events at Headley Court. The two have now met and I cannot wait to see where life will take this new talent.
We have received some adapted tools from a company called Peta which have really been an excellent addition to our toolkit. A patient, left hand dominant, has been unable to work in his garden. He found using his right hand only made tasks twice as long. The solution has been found in the box of magic tools. He has found the adapted hand trowel and fork he can hold in his left hand and use force from his shoulder to weed, dig etc. One very happy chap who is looking forward to getting home and working in the garden again. All thanks to the generosity of this company.

Well, it would be rude to not mention our feathered friends. Things have been very lively in the henhouse in recent weeks. I am sorry to report a case of bullying of a bully! One of our little bantam cockerels became a nightmare. He attacked my poor assistant every time she entered the run. So he needed to be taught some manners. I threatened him with a broomstick, pointed at him and shouted loudly. It worked for me and things improved with his relationship with my assistant. All was going well. The bantam hens started to lay sweet little eggs. Then they stopped, or so we thought. To cut a long detective story short, the little banties were squeezing under the step leading to the henhouse. Volunteer Andy and I, screwdrivers in hand dismantled said steps and made a discovery, just like Howard Carter or was it Lord Carnarvon? We saw eggs, wonderful eggs! Steps are now removed.

Next drama, Bully Cockerel takes a turn and appears very unwell, not eating, not drinking. He even sat on my lap. How the mighty have fallen thought I. He couldn’t be persuaded to eat or drink and just skulked around on his own. I arrived one morning to find him on the very top of the henhouse and then the penny dropped. The others had ganged up on him and given him a good bashing. His wounded pride would not allow him to join the throng to feed or drink and possibly the thought of another bashing was also on his mind! So I put him in solitary in our ark with a run attached. One of his ladies managed to squeeze through the smallest gap to join him. After a few days and realising she just adored him and didn’t want to punch him up the bracket, the two are very happy together. He is now in good voice after several weeks of silence!

Using an adapted hand trowel from Peta Using an adapted hand trowel from Peta
Naughty Mrs Bantie..!! Naughty Mrs Bantie..!!

Horseferry Road
Sami has had a very busy time delivering more Rural Weeks at Plumpton College and his caseload is growing all the time – we were delighted to welcome our first Gurkha on RXW8!

The land-based work experience pilot which we are running with ISS Landscaping starts next month, and thanks to the guidance of Adrian Peters, another Development Board member, we are now developing a series of Industry Awareness Days for CTP so we can reach more Service Leavers who are interested in working outdoors.

We must thank Maherban, our volunteer Office Administrator who came to help us set up new systems in the office and wish him well in his new job – volunteers are a very precious resource to a small charity like HighGround as we continue to punch above our weight.

Don’t forget to read Sami’s Good News stories.
Chit sowing seeds during the Rural Week at Plumpton College
Sami’s report

So much has been happening since my last report and there is much to tell.

We ran two further Rural Weeks during June and July with 15 Service Leavers, Veterans or Reservists accessing the service. The weather was fantastic for us, the programme went really well and the feedback from those who attended has been absolutely brilliant. Must say a big thank you to Plumpton College for all their hard work in making this possible. Also to Peter Greenwood from the Royal Scot Trust for giving up his time to offer guidance and advice about the heritage railway industry. And finally, a big thank you to all the other presenters and speakers who make Rural Weeks possible.
We are now working with more and more HighGrounders who are keen to transition into the land based sector. We have been working hard on developing a work experience programme with the support of ISS. We hope to have our first two HighGrounders participate in this programme over the next 8 weeks. This will lead to the development of our work experience offerings and allow for HighGrounders to access relevant, tailored, work experience opportunities.
Sami at RailLive 2016 with Simon Higgens on ISS Labour Solutions stand.
We continue to provide the Officers Association with specialist advice about land-based employment and we work closely with all our partners in order to share ideas and experiences which will support the military community and aid transition. We are looking to create new smallholding and self-employment modules and hope to be running a pilot later on this year. We have come across a number of HighGrounders who would love to go self-employed and it has highlighted a need to provide further guidance and information in this area.

On a personal note, the past few months have been great for me. I am very much focused on HighGround services and look forward to seeing how everything develops between now and the end of the year. We have some exciting new projects starting including the Pilot Work Experience Programme, new Smallholding and Self-Employed Modules and CTP Insight days. I will continue to manage the Rural Weeks and will work alongside Plumpton College to continue developing them. I also look forward to working with our Volunteers to further develop our website and social media communications.

I look forward to being part of it all and seeing the development in our service.


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The challenge to raise sufficient funds to support and develop our work continues, and I am extremely grateful to Nigel, a fundraising professional who we found via Reach Volunteering, as he is giving me precious advice and guidance as we develop new fundraising strategies and widen the reach of our fundraising activity.

This quarter we have received funding from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and our thanks to them and also the generous individuals who have helped to keep the show on the road.

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PR and media
We have spent time over the summer thinking about our brand and how we communicate with our supporters (you!) and how to engage new ones. Again via Reach Volunteering, we have been working with Noah a branding specialist, and you can see the fruits of our labours in the Autumn.

The FSI, in collaboration with the Marketing Academy and their Donate28 project has enabled us to work with Lara and Veronica who are literally taking us and our website to the next level.

And yet another brilliant volunteer Brian from the PR Guild is generously helping me to weave all these wonderful strands together. Huge thanks to everyone who is working so hard to help us to write HighGround’s next chapter – we couldn’t do it without you!!

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Dr Zoe Morrison visited Headley Court on the Development Board’s behalf recently to meet the Occupational Therapists who refer patients to the Horticultural Therapy service we provide, and find out how they view the service and how it benefits their patients.

Our volunteer Research Administrator Joanna who recently completed her Masters in War and Psychiatry at King’s College London (kcl) starts her new job soon. She has moved our data collection systems to a new level and we wish her every success in her new career – we’ll miss you Jo!
Jo’s last day at Horseferry Road – job done! Jo’s last day at Horseferry Road – job done!

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Since the last newsletter, John Macleod has arranged with Vulpro another veteran will go to Africa to spend time working with the vultures. Why does this matter?

When I first suggested Africa to John back in those dark days at Headley Court, he said he didn’t want it to be a one-off. The trip gave him focus and much-needed confidence and now, less than 12 months after he returned, we have created the opportunity for another veteran. If you want to lift yourself, lift another. Booker T Washington.
Ian with Drizzle, an Asian Wood Owl Ian with Drizzle, an Asian Wood Owl

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