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Highground at Headley Court
Carol's column
Horseferry Road
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What to say about 2016?! From our HighGround corner, we have delivered 5 Rural Weeks at Plumpton College, developed our land-based employment advice and support service at Horseferry Road, and Carol and her team have delivered more than 1,500 sessions of Horticultural Therapy to over 500 patients at Headley Court.
Throughout all the political, social and economic turbulence of 2016, our focus at HighGround has remained with the Service Leavers, Reservists and Veterans we are here to serve. I hope you like our new strapline which, after much head scratching and consultation via social media, we hope is a more accurate description of HighGround. Life beyond the military – outdoors.
My trip to Australia in October is now a fantastic but fading memory. Cultivate NSW invited me to speak at their conference in Sydney and I was delighted to find that Horticultural Therapy, for many different client groups, is alive and well Down Under. My presentation is here and I hope to be able to share my experiences using Horticultural Therapy for the military in 2017 – watch this space..!!
Anna Anna at Cultivate NSW conference, Sydney October.
Sami and I visited Rog and Kerry Smith at Churchbridge in Shropshire in September to discuss the Smallholding module which we will be piloting in 2017. It’s a magical location, and great to have the Rare Breeds Survival Trust onside and I can’t wait to get going; we already have 2 wonderful pathfinders Haydn in Wales and Lee in France, and there’s no time to waste...
piglets Piglets at Churchbridge.
There can be no place more inspirational than Dumfries House in Ayrshire and the Walled Kitchen Garden Network had their annual Forum there in October. The last time I had visited Dumfries House was on a bleak winter’s day in 2011 when Prince Charles’s mission to save the house and estate had only just begun, and my abiding memory is of the walled garden (those readers who know me will remember my walled garden obsession…) sad, overgrown and utterly bereft.
WKGN WKGN annual forum at Dumfries House.
The transformation is nothing short of miraculous. Vision, talent, energy and yes, money have created a house and estate brimming with optimism and life. The kitchen garden and arboretum are stunning and I left on Sunday full of renewed vigour and no little admiration…
Anna Baker Cresswell signarure

Anna Baker Cresswell
Founder and Development Director

HighGround at Headley Court
In September, we welcomed all the wonderful people who had helped to create Home Thoughts from Abroad in time for May’s press day back to Headley Court.

The garden has flourished and matured over the wet summer and Carol reports that it’s getting a lot of use by both patients and staff especially in the evening and at weekends – a good job done and massive thank you to everyone who gave their precious time to make it happen.

Carol has had a super busy quarter during which she delivered 408 sessions of Horticultural Therapy to 130 of DMRC’s patients – here’s more….
Home Thoughts from abroad Home Thoughts from Abroad in autumn.
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Carol’s Column
The arrival of autumn at Headley Court has been a bit of a shock! No longer Tee shirt weather, only layers of warm clothing do! However, the trees have put on a fine display of colour to cheer us on these cold days.

We have continued to harvest produce from the raised beds such as carrots, lettuce, leeks, chard, kale, peas and even French beans in the first week of November. I am very pleased the French beans were still cropping so late and the peas we are still grazing on, but thereby hangs a tale….!
Two of my patients in late July needed a job to do and I asked them to sow some French beans and some peas. They were happily filling trays with compost and sowing away when one said to the other “Bit late for this if you ask me”, thinking he was out of earshot. No chance... I went over and said “So you think so do you?” Much shuffling of feet followed! He said he thought they would never amount to anything and I explained if we had a good autumn they would crop until the first frosts. One of his eyebrows was raised.
Fast forward to the 21st of September. We began to pick French beans by the handful!! I could not resist sending the patient a photo of the beans with the caption ‘Ye of little faith!’. In early November he came for an out-patient appointment with his wife and I sent them to pick some to take home. I told her the tale and she told him not to doubt a woman and he should know that after being married for so many years!! Much laughter all round.
french beanslate sowing of French beans.
The greenhouse is a riot of colour at the moment. The chillies are star performers, all colours, all shapes and varying heat levels. Oh what fun we’ve had… Many patients ask “Which is your hottest chilli?” Well there are plenty to choose from. Delhi hot, Ring of fire, Satan’s kiss, Joe’s Long, Fatali, Infinity, Bangalore Torpedo to name just a few of our lovely chillies. Then some bright spark will say “I can handle chillies” and promptly eats one.

Oh dear... First the eyes water, then much puffing and blowing, followed by walking around the greenhouse, sometimes hiccups, other times coughing and accompanying exclamations such as “Phew”. Will they never learn?

We have been making colourful strings of chillies to hang up in the greenhouse, sell to the staff and for patients brave enough, to take home. I have a strong feeling they will appear in the Christmas wreaths we will be making too.

I can’t believe that in a few short weeks we will be sowing for next year’s crop, how time flies.
Trees from Seed.

As I am sure you are all aware, we have been working with the Woodland Trust on their project ‘Trees from Seeds’. Our 50 little seedlings have been potted on by one of our patients who originally sowed the seeds. We have been visited by Martin Boiling from the Woodland Trust and our young trees were inspected and pronounced as being some of the best he had seen! Well done patients. Hopefully next Autumn/Winter 2017 they will be planted by us in the Centenary Wood at Langley Vale, Epsom, making history!
Martin Boiling Martin Boiling from the Woodland Trust inspecting our seedlings
Carol with Michael Buck Carol with Michael Buck at Hortus Loci.
Carol Carol taking delivery of the compost from Scotts Miracle Grow.
At this time of the year one activity which is full of promise is bulb planting. However, we were seriously lacking in that department. Very soon this was solved by the kindness and generosity of our good friends Hortus Loci. I went to the nursery and Michael Buck gave me the Grand Tour of this wonderful place. The quality and standards of the plants are amazing but then many will be gracing wonderful gardens at Chelsea Flower Show next year, so quite a treat to get a sneak preview! Then it was time for tea, cake and shopping for bulbs. Michael sent me away with three carrier bags full to the brim with all manner of bulbs. The patients have been potting them up and others are in beds and borders just waiting for spring. We are all eagerly awaiting !!

With all this potting and sowing going on, the compost levels were dwindling. Help has been at hand!! Vicky Page from Scotts Miracle Gro came to see me and within the blinking of an eye, several pallets were organised to be sent to us. They duly arrived and we won’t be holding back! The generosity of this company is vital for us, without compost and plant food, no seed sowing, no plants can be potted on, hungry sad looking plants will surround us and very little to offer in Horticultural Therapy. So the contribution they make for our patients cannot be overestimated.
Our volunteers have been clearing, weeding, trimming and tidying throughout our working area. We look very ship shape and ready for planting. They have created a new area with sleepers and compost which will be used for growing all shapes and sizes of squash and pumpkin next year. My aim is to have a bit of a pumpkin festival for the patients next autumn. So watch this space for further developments!
At this time of year I find, as mentioned earlier, wrapping up to keep warm is essential. Mother Nature clearly forgot to programme chickens and bantams with the brains for ‘appropriate clothing during the colder months’. The Moult arrived with the North wind accompanied with J. Frost Esq. and their clothes fell off!! Feathers, feathers everywhere… in the henhouse, in the bus stop, in the drinkers and on the breeze! The hens and banties look like they have argued with the lawnmower; some poor girls look oven-ready and very embarrassed! Not an egg laid for weeks now, and who can blame them?
You would think that at night in this state of dis-featherment they would cosy up in the henhouse at night, keeping each other cosy and warm. No, several fly up to the eaves of the henhouse and congregate there. I give up... Christmas will soon be upon us and without a shadow of doubt much wreath making will be going on in the greenhouse. We shall be cutting the hazel in the next week or two to begin the weaving. Yes, it does get messy but it is worth it in the end. I have a few patients who can’t wait to get started and others who will need convincing. They will come round to my way of thinking; after all, it is about me!!


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Horseferry Road
All systems go at HFR and thanks to Brook, Dionne and Harvi our wonderful volunteers, we have made great strides with our monitoring and data collection, social media and boring old governance.

Running any organisation whether a business or a charity takes lots of energy and behind-the-scenes hard work, and we are extremely grateful to everyone who gives their precious time to help HighGround to grow and flourish so we can deliver an even better service to our HighGrounders and can reach even more of them.
In addition to our regular Trustees Meeting, our Development Board also met recently and as well as thanking everyone who turned up, I should also thank the Royal Ocean Racing Club who looked after us so well – there is a lot to commend working lunches..! We also welcomed Ruth our new book keeper to HFR. She is a vital player in Team HighGround as our funding and reporting requirements become bigger and more complex – thank goodness for Ruth…
Development board Development Board meeting at the Royal Ocean Racing Club in St James’s.
Sami has had a very busy time both at HFR developing the land-based service for those HighGrounders who know what they want to do so don’t need a Rural Week, but still need advice, information and introductions, and at Plumpton – read on…

Sami’s Report
Having just completed the final Rural Week of 2016, I thought this would be the perfect time to reflect on the year and how things have progressed.

We have run 5 Rural Weeks during 2016 which involved a new application process to help us identify those who would most benefit from the service and a new evaluation process which helped us identify required changes going forward. Much work was done to make sure the military cohort were all aware of the service and how they could benefit from it.

Our final Rural Week at the end of October saw the benefits of the above processes and was a fantastic way to end the year. We had full attendance with 8 Veterans attending on this occasion meaning 34 HighGrounders have benefitted from attending a Rural Week in 2016.

During the year, we have seen the need to develop in various areas to meet the requirements of those who are looking to transition into the land-based sector. Self-employment, the need for further advice and guidance, and work experience opportunities being three of them.

During the year, we have taken productive steps forward in order to account for these and in 2017, we hope to have introduced new ways to support our HighGrounders reach their goals.
We have continued to work with HighGrounders as part of the advice service I run from Horseferry Road and we have recently seen our 18th HighGrounder gain employment in the land-based sector this year. We have also had 8 attend work experience opportunities, 4 go into further education and two become self-employed.

Our work on the Rural Weeks and follow-up service could not have been done without the support of our volunteers this year. Mebs, Dionne, Jo, Brook and Harvi have all worked extremely hard to help HighGround get our message out there and provide a fantastic service.

We are now heading towards Christmas and the New Year and working hard to review progress in order to make 2017 even more successful. For myself personally, I have decided to pursue other interests and will be leaving HighGround at the end of the year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for such a wonderful experience. I have shared a unique camaraderie with everyone involved in supporting Service Leavers, Veterans and Reservist transition into the land-based sector. I will remain an avid supporter of HighGround and look forward to seeing the charity go from strength to strength. Thank you for your support.

Rural week  
Rural week  

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February 2017, and now that Horticultural Therapy has been fully integrated into the range of rehab interventions used by the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) to treat their patients, we will shortly be launching our fundraising campaign to fund the Hort Therapy service for a further 3 years. We are extremely grateful to ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the Westminster Foundation, Clive and Sylvia Richards Charity, the Leathersellers Company and all those who have contributed in kind, to make the pilot such a success.
The next 3 years promise to be just as action packed as we join in the celebration of 70 years of military rehab at Headley Court and then the move to Stanford Hall, the new DNRC in 2018.

Charitable Bookings is a new and visionary way of raising funds for charity. I thought there was a catch as it seems so simple – book a table at a restaurant using Charitable Bookings, and the restaurant will donate £1 to your nominated charity for every diner.

This is a brilliant way to support HighGround and there are literally thousands of participating restaurants all over the UK. It won’t cost you anything and will make your pudding taste so much better..!

Big thanks to Lesley Ayres who organised a bank holiday fun day to raise money for HighGround. Unrestricted funding really is the Holy Grail of fundraising, and we use it to pay for boring essentials like insurance and copy paper without which, even our carefully well-husbanded wheels would, I can assure you, fall off.

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charititablebookings HighGround’s Charitable Bookings card
PR and media
I went to Hawks of Steele at Thoresby Park in Nottinghamshire for the BBC and Forces TV to film with John Macleod. Wonderfully, a second veteran has just secured an apprenticeship to work with birds of prey and we are planning for him to spend some time at Vulpro in Africa in 2017 as part of his work experience. I have a deep aversion to writing about people as ‘case studies’ so we refer to the stories about the Service Leavers, Reservists and Veterans who come to HighGround in Good News, a section on our homepage where you can read about who we help and how

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Dr Zoe Morrison generously undertook a service evaluation at Headley Court on behalf of HighGrounds Board of Trustees to find out what the referring clinicians think of the Horticultural Therapy service we run there and how their patients benefit from it.

Anecdotal evidence that what Carol’s patients think about Hort Therapy gives them huge benefits is beyond doubt, but this is the first time we have had independent academic evidence of the benefits of the service. As we embark on our fundraising campaign for Headley Court/Stanford Hall 2020 Dr Morrison’s work will provide a key part of our messaging; if you would like to see a copy of her report, do please let me know and I would be happy to share it anna@highground-uk.org

Now the 2016 Rural Weeks programme has been completed, we will be writing a Final Report which will include outcomes, statistics and the analysis of Dr Morrison’s data which we collect via questionnaires before and after each Rural Week. We send this Final Report to all those who fund and refer to us; if you would like a copy, please let me know and I will be delighted to send you one.

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You will have read Sami’s news earlier that he is moving on to pastures new. He has made a huge contribution to HighGround’s growth and development as our first Careers Manager and I will really miss him. Good Luck Sami.
Sami Sami.

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