This is a very special occasion, to be writing HighGround’s first newsletter on the first day of British Summer Time although it doesn’t feel like it here in foggy Northumberland….
We will follow the seasons and have lots of news for you in this Spring edition; it has been a very busy 12 months since HighGround was granted charitable status and I hope you enjoy reading about what we are doing as we develop the vision of providing Service Leavers, Reservists and Veterans with advice and practical support about finding jobs, careers and vocational opportunities in the land-based sector.
Anna Baker Cresswell
Founder and Development Director
I started the recruitment process for the Horticultural Therapist at Headley Court back in September 2013 and as part of the Service Level Agreement which HighGround signed with the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC), it was agreed that I would go to Headley Court on a regular basis to introduce HighGround and the Horticultural Therapy service which we would be delivering for their patients to DMRC’s staff.
The greenhouse and garden were being kept going until HighGround arrived to take over their running and everyone made me very welcome during the winter months while the recruitment followed its course; Headley Court truly is a unique place.
Thanks to the generous support of ABF the Soldiers’ Charity and the Westminster Foundation, we welcomed Carol Sales to HighGround and she started work on 10th February – a very big day for all of us!
It’s early days and you can read Carol’s Column below; she and her patients are growing on plants for ABF the Soldiers’ Charity’s show garden ‘No Mans’ Land’ at Chelsea Flower Show in May and we are making good progress with evaluation and measurement of the new HT service – to read Carol’s Comments Book in the greenhouse is a very humbling experience.
Miracle Gro have been amazing with their support of HighGround at Headley Court and Carol and her patients will be conducting some trials using Miracle Gro products later in the summer.
Roger de Courcey from the Worshipful Company of Glovers also visited us and very kindly donated a box of gardening gloves which are getting plenty of use and special thanks to David at Buckland Nurseries for his wonderful donation of seeds.
Six weeks have flown by since I took up my appointment with HighGround at Headley Court as Horticulture Therapist and it has been a busy, busy time.
I have engaged with over 25 patients already, all with differing needs and expectations.
The spirit and determination of the people I work with in Horticulture to overcome what life has thrown at them is to be admired. I feel honoured to be given the opportunity to make a contribution in the journey of recovery and rehabilitation of these unique people.
So much has been gained in such a short period of time – increased mobility, personal goals and challenges achieved, new hobbies discovered, concentration levels improved and greater self confidence to list a few.
Seeds have been sown with hope in our hearts and they have fulfilled their promise and germinated. The patients have carefully moved our precious seedlings on to larger containers and where they are now becoming fledgling plants.
It sounds like the conception and birth of HighGround!
Future plans - supplying vegetables for patients to use in cookery sessions, a ‘shop’ once a week for patients to sell our produce to raise funds for specific ‘wish list’ items, a Green Gym for staff as a ‘stress buster’ and to raise awareness of Horticulture and how it can benefit their patients.
Finally to keep on growing plants and people!
In February, we said goodbye to our friends and hosts the Conservation Foundation who, with generous funding from the Wates Foundation, had offered us use of their facilities at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington last summer, and through David Steele’s contacts we moved to Regimental Headquarters the London Scottish Regiment in Horseferry Road in the heart of Westminster.
This was made possible with a very generous donation from Annington for which we really are so grateful; having a base in London from which we can engage with contacts and funders is critical to developing HighGround’s reach throughout the UK.
Next on our To Do list is IT and Comms and thanks to Emma and Jon from the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, we now have a realistic idea of our IT and comms requirements and how much it will cost to equip the office to support HighGround’s growing IT requirements and I can begin my fundraising.
Special thanks must go to Cathy and Steve for finding and donating the office furniture and of course to our wonderful hosts the London Scottish Regiment for making us so welcome in their magnificent building.
We are delighted that Rachel Luft has agreed to join the Board of Trustees. She is a Trustee of the Kensington & Chelsea Foundation and brings much governance and legal experience and we are extremely fortunate that she has chosen to support HighGround.
David and I are in the throes of putting the Development Board together; this will consist of Subject Matter Experts from farming, forestry, conservation, military transition and other areas who will help to guide HighGround as we grow and develop the vision and will meet twice a year in London and be on hand for advice and the odd nudge.
As a charity nearing the end of its first year, fundraising without audited accounts has been a proper challenge and Liz our superb Finance Volunteer has been the most amazing help researching new sources of funding and helping me with applications. We are truly grateful to all those who have supported us thus far and wish David Steele every success with his London Marathon run to raise money for HighGround and British Exploring – we’ll be there to cheer you on!!! It’s not too late to support David by going to his Justgiving page.
PR and media
It doesn’t matter how good you are if nobody knows you’re there and media coverage is a huge part of our communication task – you can see our press coverage so far in our Press Room and any suggestions for future media coverage are always welcome.
David and I have travelled to the National Memorial Arboretum, Herefordshire, Plumpton College and the Royal British Legion Industries in Kent to talk to people who are interested in helping us as we develop the HighGround Rural Experience Weeks which form the core of our land-based jobs and careers finding for Service Leavers, Reservists and Veterans and getting the message out there is a huge part of what we do.
We are delighted that Dr Zoe Morrison has agreed to join the Development Board and she be
responsible for research and evaluation of HighGround’s service.
Through Reach Skills we were very fortunate to meet Chris Bond who has generously agreed to
help us to develop software which will enable us to collect and analyse data about the land-based
opportunities throughout the UK, training and further education providers and most important of all,
the unique people HighGround is here to serve – more in the Summer newsletter.
For those of you who have made it to the end, I just wanted to thank everyone who helped to make our launch event at Horseferry Road such a success – to Annington whose support made it possible, our wonderful and generous hosts the London Scottish Regiment and to everyone who came to support us – thank you all.
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