Forward to a friend? | View email in your Browser?
  facebook email
Welcome spacer
Anna Baker Cresswell  

As the festive season draws inexorably closer, time for some reflection on what has been a busy year for HighGround, when we welcomed David our first Chairman, delivered our first full programme of Rural Weeks at Plumpton College with some really promising results and managed to get Headley Court to agree to us recruiting some volunteers to help Carol and Gina keep the garden straight – not forgetting the arrival on 21st December of Sami, our first dedicated Careers Manager. Read On..!!

Anna Baker Cresswell signarure

Anna Baker Cresswell
Founder and Development Director




HighGround at Headley Court
Carol’s Column
Horseferry Road
Rural Weeks
PR and Media
  HighGround at Headley Court   spacer

We had a press day to welcome John Macleod back from his trip to Africa and show off the new garden we are creating, Home Thoughts from Abroad. It’s coming together really well, and the next press day will be in May 2016.

The building work for the new DNRC at Stanford Hall has now started which is very exciting.

  Carol and Fraank

Carol and Frank with the RSM at Headley Court press day

Christmasa wreaths making    

Carol and her patients have been very busy in the garden; in the last quarter she has delivered 284 sessions of Horticultural Therapy to 80 patients. She describes life at Headley Court much better than I can so read on….

Making Christmas wreaths
at Headley Court

  Carol’s Column   spacer

The North wind has blown here at Headley Court and it looks very much like snow to follow! However, the footfall entering the greenhouse remains very much unaffected. We have been harvesting the very last of our tomatoes – not bad for late November! The chillies are amazing and patients are happily tying them on to long strings to take home. We are growing over 15 varieties of chilli and they are always very popular not only with patients but mice too! Oh yes, they are back. Not only do they like chillies, they also like to climb up tomato plants and have a bite too. Mouse Wars has started and chocolate laden traps await them. I will win.



The Devon Chilli Man very kindly offered to send us some of his chillies to try. The box arrived and with great excitement it was opened. Inside contained bright coloured chillies and a large label declaring the contents to be ‘The Box of Pain’. The clue I guess is in the title! I am waiting for feedback from patients who are going to try them – good luck with that one...


I continue to work with patients from all departments and have received very encouraging feedback, in particular from a patient who could hardly open his eyes because of extreme pain. He was soon stringing chillies and left the greenhouse smiling. He returned for several sessions having found horticulture a distraction from the acute pain and enjoyable. That is what I like to hear.

Sometimes, the greenhouse provides a space where a patient can think, discuss ideas for the future and come to terms with what life has thrown their way. One of my patients has recently attended his Medical Board and has been told officially he will no longer be able to remain in the Forces. After 26 years of service it was a bitter pill to swallow. He said that he knew it was coming but it was still difficult. On the flip side to this, he is just about to complete a purchase of farm where he hopes to become self sufficient. His rehab journey is by no means finished but he now has a focus. Footnote: His original plan was to work on the oil rigs! The power of Horticultural Therapy...



Tomato rugby  

Outside we have planted the garlic and winter onions, hoping we are rewarded with excellent produce again in July next year. The purple sprouting and Tuscan cabbage have come into their own giving us lovely sprouting veg and delicious leaves packed full of vitamins and other good stuff! The perpetual spinach is keeping the ‘Ladies/hens’ happy too. They love a pile of leaves to sort through and peck away at.


In October, in collaboration with the Vocational OT, we have started a ‘Landskill Group’ each week for an afternoon. This is still in the fledgling stages but is gathering pace. The topics covered so far have been an introduction to HighGround and Rural Weeks, growing for profit, adding value to produce and today, poultry care. ‘Poultry Care’ proved to be very entertaining, more later. We will continue to refine the sessions as we make progress.

Our Press Day for ‘Home Thoughts’ went very well, the sun shone, the cakes were delicious and lots of patients joined us. It was really useful for the attendees to meet the patients and hear from them directly about being on the receiving end of Horticultural Therapy.


We planted an apple tree, the first to go in the ground, with others to follow. The birch trees, also supplied by Hortus Loci are beautiful specimens as are the herbaceous perennials that arrived with them. The quality of the plants and trees is outstanding, no wonder they grow for Chelsea Flower Show gardens. We have visited the nursery with patients to get a flavour of a commercial growing establishment and they have kindly shown us around and provided a lovely lunch too. I am very grateful to all for their support.

James Seymour of Seymours Landscapes, came to my rescue and sent two of his staff to plant the trees and stake them. They have carried out a very professional job and huge thanks to all involved. I am sure the trees are much happier in the ground.

  David and Holly

We have been visited by Vicky Page from Miraclegro in the last few weeks. Vicky has been an amazing support to us supplying compost, organic matter, plant food etc. and without that help I would not be able to do my job. Plants need growing medium! Vicky also met a patient who spoke of his times in the greenhouse and what it meant to him. I feel it is very important for our supporters to meet the people who wouldn’t have the chance of Horticultural Therapy without their input/help. Vicky has also pledged to continue to help in the future wherever she can.

We have also been visited by ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. One of our long standing patients has been interviewed at length and will be taking part in a new campaign for ABF. He has spoken of Horticultural Therapy and the HighGround Rural weeks. He has previously taken part in a pilot week and returned to Plumpton for a fully fledged Rural Week. He spoke very highly of all the work that HighGround carries out and the support he has been given by our charity. He went on to say he is being discharged from the Forces but has been inspired by all he has learned from us. His plans include organic farming and a ‘Glamping’ site. He currently lives near the Midlands and has 2 acres of land to practice on! Hopefully, this story will be a main feature in their campaign!

Our flockette has been joined by a noisy Light Sussex. The usual handbags at dawn started and after a cooling off period she is now established in the flock and lays well. The Essex girls have decided that under the entrance ladder to the henhouse is the most choice spot to lay whopper eggs. Considering they were supposedly past it – good effort!

Three hens also think it is fun every day at twilight to climb up the chain link fence and roost under the eaves of the hen house. One was clearly ‘caught short’ and laid an egg up there too. I fail to understand why sitting under the eaves of the hen house is preferable to being on a cosy straw nest inside...

There is also great embarrassment amongst the flock. Several are moulting or as we say, their clothes are falling off. They look like they have been put through a shredder. Some are showing signs of new feathers appearing. Egg production has fallen slightly as a result of this; I would also expect it at this time of year.

‘Poultry Care’, now there’s a phrase to conjure with. Picture this, Carol, Patient A, who cannot run very well and Patient B whose leg is in a frame with spokes into his bones and on crutches, all in the hen run. We are going to give the Ladies a health check and clip their wings. The Ladies have other ideas. We approached them in a calm fashion, talking to them sweetly and then mistake, we made a grab. They ran Hell for leather and we gave chase. After running around the hen house several times, feeling a bit dizzy, almost slipping in the mud and shoes covered in you know what, one was captured. She squawked as if the Devil was behind her. However, after being held by her feet and tucked under my arm she quietened down. We checked her for creepy crawlies, made sure she had lovely smooth legs and good feet etc.


Next, out with the scissors and clipped her flight feathers, so if she makes a move to fly over the fence she will go round in circles. We repeated this process with 5 others including getting very muddy and looking ridiculous. Patient B’s crutches came in very handy to head off the selected victim in the direction of grabbing/flayling arms. We were all soon quite exhausted, decided to make a brew and discussed the merits of using a fishing landing net in future!


So the Festive Season will soon be upon us. We are making Christmas Wreaths from hazel rods again this year due to the popularity last year. I hope we will have an interesting addition to our Winter Crafts. Rachel Dein of the Tactile Studio has kindly offered to teach us how to make her gorgeous plaster tiles of ‘fossilised’ plant material. The technique reveals incredible detail on plant material that would quite easily be unseen. I can see a few presents for patients’ families coming up! Watch this space.



back to top

  Horseferry Road   spacer

Our Finance team is coming together well; we welcomed John Clemence as our new Treasurer and a part-time Finance Officer joins us in January to help us keep on top of the ever-increasing amount of reporting and financial administration. A huge thank-you to everyone who has helped us at Horseferry Road this year – as a small charity your goodwill and precious time have been absolutely invaluable to us as we move forwards and grow our services to the armed forces community.

A special thank-you to Annington as without their hugely generous support, we wouldn’t be able to stay at Horseferry Road. The opportunities which having a base in central London creates are priceless, and being so close to government and the City as our reach spreads is critical..

back to top

  Rural Weeks   spacer

We delivered our final Rural Week (RXW) of 2015 in October and for the first time, were joined by 2 Royal Marines so we can now say that HighGround’s RXW’s are genuinely tri-service. A huge thank you to all our speakers and the staff at Plumpton who made the week so enjoyable and a special mention to Jeremy Kerswell the new Principal; we really look forward to working with you in 2016 and beyond as we develop the Rural Weeks concept.

Next year we plan to double the number of RXW’s we deliver and following feedback from this year’s programme, Alex Hardman and I are working on 2 new modules which will be specifically aimed at HighGround’s cohort of Service Leavers, Reservists and Veterans – Smallholding, and Working for Yourself in the land-based sector.

Rural weeks

Although Dr Morrison is still analysing the data from the pre and post RXW questionnaires which all our participants have kindly completed, the anecdotal evidence is very promising and after a Rural Week participants report feeling reassured that they are making the right career decision to pursue land-based employment; each cohort is keeping in touch with others who had shared the week with them, and we have organised 3 work experience opportunities, one in the South West with a forestry company; one in Lincolnshire on a smallholding and one participant is going to spend the lambing season with a flock of rare breed sheep in Derbyshire

Thanks to funding from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and the Christie Foundation, Sami Choudhury joins us just before Christmas and I am so looking forward to working with him as he develops and refines the work which David Steele, Alex, the Plumpton staff and all our pathfinding Rural Week participants have put into our Rural Weeks programme so far.


Sami is currently working for Walking With the Wounded and brings valuable experience of the military transition and employment sector to this new role.

He will be responsible for the growing number of Service Leavers, Reservists and Veterans who come to HighGround seeking advice and support about jobs, careers and vocational opportunities in the land-based sector and for running our Rural Weeks programme at Plumpton College in Sussex.

Fergus Williams, Director of Operations at Walking With the Wounded “We are sad that Sami is leaving us and wish him well. Sami worked hard in his role supporting the Recovery Career Service and we are pleased that he is remaining in the sector to continue to support Vulnerable and Wounded Service personnel.”




HighGround joins many other organisations such as the Officers Association, Barclays Veterans Employment Transition Support (VETS) programme; On Course Foundation, The C Group, X Forces, Salute My Job, the RFEA, Walking With the Wounded and the Poppy Factory who are all focused on helping Service Leavers, Reservists and Veterans back into employment and I was very pleased to attend my first meeting of the Cobseo Employment Cluster recently. There is much to be done but with Sami’s help to pull it together, I think HighGround is now ready to really do its bit.


Since his return from Africa John Macleod has now left the Army after 18 years’ service and together we are developing a wider Conservation Initiative to build on the success of his pathfinding trip to Vulpro. John is keen that other wounded service personnel should experience the challenges and benefits both mental and physical, which the trip afforded him in testing mind and body and we are widening our networks to find work experience opportunities here in the UK and overseas in the wider Conservation sector which will enable ex military people to put their skills and experience to good use in worthwhile and meaningful jobs to tackle this global challenge. John’s first presentation was at Plumpton College during RXW4 and he is working his way around the Recovery Centres – huge thanks John, you are doing brilliant work.

back to top



  Fundraising   spacer

Our Livery connections are growing and Neil Marshall who joined us for RXW2 and returned to Plumpton for a Principles of Vinegrowing course, was featured in the Worshipful Company of Farmers recent newsletter. We continue to grow our Livery links and are grateful to the Worshipful Company of Gold & Silver Wyre Drawers, the Leathersellers’ Company and the Worshipful Company of Glovers for their continued and very generous support. NEXT Retail generously gave HighGround a donation from every Remembrance bouquet they sold which raised precious funds and all important awareness of our work and we are also very grateful to Glen Art for their generous donation following A Night to Remember on 11th November. It was terrific to see 3 military charities sharing the stage at the Imperial War Museum when the City Veterans Network organised a superb dinner – a wonderful evening all round.

back to top

  PR and media   spacer

We have been in a variety of publications recently and you can see them in our Press Room. It will be great to have Sami to help develop our social media presence; he’s much better at it than me...

back to top

  Research   spacer

Dr Zoe Morrison is now analysing all the data we have collected from the 2015 RXW programme and her findings will be included in the Final Report of 2015 which will be available in January. We are in discussions with Rand UK as their parent company the Rand Corporation have already done some work into the US veterans population and land-based employment and to have similar evidence about the UK population of UK Service Leavers and Veterans would assist us with our strategic planning and future fundraising – the average age of the UK’s rural workforce is currently 59...

back to top

  Clippings   spacer

It has been a really exciting year of progress and development for HighGround and I would like to thank everyone who has given their precious time to help us. I feel immensely blessed to have such a supportive Chairman and Board of Trustees and look forward to 2016 and beyond with great anticipation, although I cannot finish without expressing my sadness about the demise of Gardening Leave, the charity I started in my Mother’s memory all those years ago.

All good wishes for the festive season and beyond,





  Unsubscribe: If you do not want to be contacted by HighGround in the future please unsubscribe here.
Charity Reg No: 1151225. Limited Company No: 8236843