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Anna Baker Cresswell  

Spring is so close we can almost touch it and as the days get lighter, there is so much to do at Headley Court and at Plumpton College, where our 2016 Rural Weeks programme starts on 24th April – 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

The planning for our move from Headley Court to the new DNRC at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire has now started although we’re not going until late 2018. We have begun a very exciting partnership with the RAF Benevolent Fund and thanks to the generosity of the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers and ‘Bee Bob’ the bee keeping project at Headley Court is now becoming a reality.


In the quarter which includes the short, dark days of January and February, Carol delivered 260 sessions of Horticultural Therapy to 79 patients at Headley Court. Truly a testament to the versatility of Horticultural Therapy and its effectiveness as part of the rehab interventions at Headley Court.

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Spring has arrived and she is wearing her best frock at Headley Court. We have ‘a host of golden daffodils’ standing tall in the borders to cheer us on the dull days. We have had lots of ‘weather’ at Headley from ‘T shirt’ weather to ‘layer up or else you shall freeze’ weather! So even in one day we go from brilliant sunshine to howling a gale. It is such a ‘British’ thing to always want to discuss the weather and clearly I am no exception!

  The Daffodils at Headley Court

The Daffodils at Headley Court

The seedlings in our propagator

The seedlings in our propagator


The patients have been very busy sowing seeds and potting on seedlings. The propagator is full and more trays are waiting their turn for a space. We are very fortunate to have such a luxury and that is thank you Gardening for the Disabled who kindly funded the purchase.


We are kindly supported by Scotts MiracleGro who regularly supplies us with compost, gro bags, plant food etc and lately with very upmarket bird feeding stations, bird treats and wildflower seeds. With the arrival of all things birdslike, I am anticipating a bit of ‘Twitching’ with the patients too.

Hortus Loci, yet another wonderful company who have donated many, many pots of lovely tulips, narcissus, lilies, brightly coloured gardening gloves (mine are not the pink ones!) and Felco secateurs! How spoiled are we?

It always astonishes me the generosity of others and very important to remember that without the kindnesses, the work we do would be very difficult and less successful.

  Charl planting shallots withMiracleGro

Charl planting shallots with MiracleGro


On that note, I am happy to announce that the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers are looking to support us in our latest venture, Bees! It is very exciting to think that by the summer we hope to have our very own Headley Court hives and produce Headley Court honey. We have an amazing orchard at HC and it will be perfect for their new home. The patients will have the opportunity to learn the craft of beekeeping and hopefully gain the confidence to start their own hives at home. The bees will provide a distraction from pain, a ‘mindful’ activity, an opportunity to gain confidence when walking on uneven ground, a sense of purpose and achievement for the patients (not to mention lovely honey!). The local Beekeeping group will also help us in looking after the hives and bees, sigh of relief! I am one of those ‘dangerous’ people. I have a little beekeeping knowledge and will possibly be dangerous. So an expert who has great knowledge is a better option! Fingers crossed, by the next newsletter I will be buzzing about our bees. Apologies for the pun….


We are collecting empty 1 litre plastic milk cartons at the moment as we have been invited by the Woodland Trust to take part in their new project ‘Trees from Seeds’. We will grow 50 tree seedlings from seed in adapted milk cartons, which will be planted at Langley Vale Centenary Wood, adding to the existing planting. Some of you may remember that we took some patients on a cold December day to begin the tree planting at Langley Vale in 2014. We are delighted to still have involvement with this woodland as it is so close to Headley Court and very meaningful to us and the patients as we reflect on the importance of planting for the future. So here’s to many germinating seeds.

  Rosemary cuttings thehydroponic way

Rosemary cuttings the hydroponic way


During the past months we have had many visitors for a variety of reasons and when having a discussion with patients a phrase seems to come up quite regularly - ‘I feel safe here, it’s my safe place’. When I first heard this mentioned I was not sure what to make of it and slightly taken aback.

One patient was speaking about how PTSD affects him and how the Rehab Team at Headley Court have been teaching him strategies to cope when he has a panic attack. He was asked by the visitor about his strategy and he said ‘I go to my ’safe’ place, which is here in the greenhouse’. He continued ‘I imagine I am walking into the greenhouse here, I can see the plants and Carol, I think about sitting down at the bench and potting on plants, I can even smell the compost. This is how I calm myself’.

When I heard this it was an emotional moment, I have worked with this patient for many months and had no idea that he felt so strongly. I knew that Horticultural Therapy was a huge part of his rehab but I had not realised how significant it had become to him. Again, only this week another patient was asked how he felt about Horticultural Therapy and he said ‘I’m safe here’. I asked him to explain what he meant. He replied ‘I feel safe here, it’s quiet, no one is watching me all the time, pushing me to do more, it’s not clinical here and I can get away from it all, I feel calm. My mates take the mickey out of me but I don’t care and tell them to try it’. Once again, I have worked with this patient for over a year and never heard him mention this. I feel almost lost for words for once; I am very happy that we are able to provide a place where the ‘madness’ can be left behind.

All the OT’s at Headley Court do an amazing job and we give another dimension to that brilliant work.

The hens have been as entertaining as ever. They have a new outdoor shelter which has been built by patients in Woodwork and has been christened the ‘Bus Stop’. The hens have made it into their own bathing facility and can been seen on a regular basis rolling around with legs in the air dust bathing. Much shoving goes on for the best spot where someone has scratched a lovely hollow surrounded by loose earth to fan themselves with. It starts with a casual nudge, a little push, then interloper sits as close as possible and begins wriggling about until the ‘bather’ has been subtly moved on. However, the Essex Girl has none of it! She always chooses the sunny spot and just spreads her wings out further making sure no one can get close and there she stays basking in dust and sunshine undisturbed.

They are all laying very well at the moment, even the lazy Skylines. They lay blue eggs so we definitely know whose egg is whose. The Bearded Lady lays a very dark brown egg, again unmistakeable and Blanche our noisy Light Sussex lays a very light coloured egg, almost pearl like. It’s not too difficult to work out who has laid what as they announce to all and sundry when they have just laid an egg. I have noticed that sometimes they all join in the chorus and it sounds like someone is being strangled.

I thought it was about time to add to the numbers in the henhouse. A lovely lady called Charlotte has given me a dozen bantam eggs and they are all tucked up in the incubator in my sitting room. The whirring and rocking of the machine is slightly disturbing, especially when it lurches from side to side mimicking a mother hen turning her eggs. I keep constant watch on the temperature and humidity, so hopefully it will result in twelve fluffy bundles in two weeks time. Watch facebook for an announcement.

  The hens dustbathing

The hens dustbathing


Five went mad at RHS Wisley recently. Five patients and their cameras were let loose in the Woodland area and then in the Glasshouse. We were very fortunate in the weather; it was a glorious sunny day and the camellias, narcissus, snowdrops, magnolias and hellebores were so beautiful. We ventured onto the Glasshouse where tropical butterflies were flying in and out of the plants, stopping for photos of course! The patients were transfixed and marvelled at the beautiful insects at such close quarters. Cameras misted up but soon cleared and were back in action. We stopped for tea and cake, which is the rule, sat in the sunshine feeling good. I have been since told that the patients haven’t stopped talking about it. Success!

So summer is on its way and we shall soon have our raised beds full of delights and the greenhouse will be groaning with chillies, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers again. The ‘Farm Shop’ will open again and I hope we have lots of lovely produce to offer. Long before that plants will be available for sale to add to our funds.

So much to do, so little time!



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Sami’s first quarter has been a whirlwind and you can read about it here:


I have now been working as HighGround’s first Careers Manager for three months. I am pleased to say I have hugely enjoyed my time here so far and am looking forward to seeing the charity progress in the months ahead. I have come from a recruitment background and have 7 years’ experience supporting those who are disadvantaged, back into sustainable employment. After my degree at Durham University, I worked for a national charity called Shaw Trust, supporting those who had suffered ill health back into employment. I then spent 4 years at RFEA and Walking with the Wounded as a Specialist Employment Consultant and later, an Account Manager supporting wounded, injured or sick service personnel back into the civilian sector.

  Sami at Strawberry Hill House with Kate the Head Gardener.

Sami at Strawberry Hill House with Kate the Head Gardener.


During this time gained a number of skills and a huge amount of experience in recruitment. I am now looking to utilise the skills I have gained to support HighGround and the beneficiaries we have. I am involved with two of HighGround’s core services. I work closely with our friends at Plumpton College to run the Rural Week Programme. These are designed to give our beneficiaries a detailed overview of the land based sector and the vocational and employment opportunities within it. I also provide the follow up service to Rural Weeks in which beneficiaries are given the tools they require to access land based opportunities in the form of careers advice, CV/interview technique support, training and development advice, work experience and employment opportunities.

Sami’s new poster is finding its wayto lots of noticeboards - can you helpus to spread the word?

Sami’s new poster is finding its way to lots of noticeboards - can you help us to spread the word?


The Rural Week dates have now been confirmed and there will be 8 run in 2016. They are filling up fast which is very exciting.

I have also started to have contact with our existing beneficiaries and have had the pleasure of working with some great, highly motivated individuals who are keen to build a new career in the land based sector. We have had some good outcomes also. This week, Mark who left the Royal Navy in 2014 has been offered a job at a local golf club in his dream role as a greenkeeper after the support of HighGround.

I am also in the process of building our network of supporters and spreading the HighGround word. Visiting military supporting agencies, building relationships with military charities and recruiters, attending networking and recruitment events and approaching the land based community to explain what we are trying to achieve and gather support.


Over the next few weeks, I look forward to being part of the Rural Week for the first time and seeing for myself how it acts to support beneficiaries find out about the land based sector. I am also keen to start working with more of our beneficiaries on a one to one basis and seeing how we can support them to reach their goals.


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We are delighted to have started a pilot with the Officers Association to provide specialist land-based employment support to them for their members. Big congratulations to Haydn who completed his first lambing ‘experience’ recently following a Rural Week. Sami is in touch with last year’s Rural Weeks cohort and Zoe Morrison and Professor Nicola Fear of King’s Centre for Military Health Research have nearly completed their analysis of the student evaluations from the 2015 Rural Weeks programme. We are pleased to be working with these academic partners to establish an evaluation framework for our range of support activities in a clear, straightforward format that will inform our service development.

We are looking forward to seeing our generous outside presenters again when the 2016 Rural Weeks programme starts on 24th April and will be adding sessions about opportunities in the railway industry both commercial and heritage, and careers in course-building via British Eventing to our packed week. Following feedback from last year’ Rural Weeks programme, we will also be piloting 2 new standalone modules about Smallholding, and Working for Yourself in the land-based sector, both to be delivered at Plumpton College.

  Haydn completing his lambing‘experience’

Haydn completing his lambing ‘experience’


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Fundraising for the 2016 Rural Week programme continues and we thank the Clive and Sylvia Richards Charity for their generous support of HighGround at Headley Court.John Macleod continues in his ambassador’s role and recently we went to Jermyn Street to collect the safari shirt which Emma Willis of Style for Soldiers has so generously made for him – it’s fabulous and I was very jealous..!


John with his new safari shirt

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Our only media exposure this quarter has been in the Globe & Laurel and following the reorganisation of the C Group which is now part of the new Royal Marines Charity we are looking forward to welcoming more Royal Marines on our Rural Weeks.

In February I was invited to speak at the annual conference of ISS Landscapes and I was hugely honoured when they announced that they had chosen HighGround as their charity partner.

ISS maintain all the landscapes on the Defence Estate and this partnership will open up a huge variety of work experience opportunities which is really exciting as that is the missing link for so many people who are transitioning from military to civilian life.

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As we continue to evaluate and demonstrate the outcomes and benefits of what we do, we continue to be extremely grateful to Zoe and Nicola for their leadership and enthusiasm.

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Fundraising for the 2016 Rural Weeks programme continues. We all know how competitive the fundraising landscape is for all charities as we fight for every donation and if any of you, our precious supporters know of individuals, companies or charities who would be interested to know more about our work, it goes without saying that I would be delighted to hear from you. My e-mail is anna@highground-uk.org



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