Vounder Garden, an area in Eden's outer estate, provides a safe, friendly environment where people can connect with nature and try out something different and learn new things – no experience necessary!

Run by an experienced horticultural therapy team, the project helps individuals living with anxiety or depression to establish a personal plan to explore what they can achieve from their time in the garden.

‘It’s got me back in a better place, now I’m focusing on what I want to do with my life, I’m more motivated, less isolated'
Programme participant 

Success stories

At the Eden Project we believe in the power of connecting people with each other and their environment – the power of people collectively doing things to improve their lives and the lives of others around them.

So we set up this project with local primary healthcare provider St Austell Healthcare as part of their social prescribing programme. Social prescribing enables GPs to refer patients to a range of local, non-clinical services such as exercise programmes, social clubs and nature-based activities – in the same way they would prescribe a drug, or refer a patient to a hospital.

‘It’s made me feel that I’m worth something. Because of all the different complaints I’ve got, I feel really inadequate and worthless. This has made me look forward to something that I enjoy doing'
Programme participant

Why therapy through horticulture?

The benefits of horticulture therapy are well proven: 

Connecting with others. Poor mental health is often a trigger for social isolation. Group gardening is beneficial because it centres on collective skills and aspirations rather than individual symptoms. 

Restoration. Exposure to green spaces has been proven to cause a dip in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which controls moods, memory and immunity.

Developing skills. Programmes like these are designed to help participants rebuild structure and supportive routines in their life. Softer life skills such as communication, organisation and decision making are all required in a group situation. Gardening also provides people with skills that can help with finding employment.

A sense of purpose. Contributing and engaging in meaningful activity is a pre-requisite for good mental health. When people invest time and effort into growing plants a sense of ownership and pride can develop, helping people feel like they belong to a community.

As well as group gardening activities, we also spend time one-on-one with participants to help them create goals for their future.

How participants have progressed

We've been monitoring the progress of our participants closely and our findings from the first year were that 100% of participants saw their mental wellbeing improve in different areas over the course of the programme and all of them indicated that the restorative nature of the garden had a very positive effect on their wellbeing.

Of the nine participants, here’s what happened in the first year:

  • 9 have demonstrated they feel more confident and they have a stronger feeling of self-worth
  • 9 have reported a restorative experience at the garden
  • 9 have demonstrated new horticultural skills
  • 6 have reported to have felt less isolated
  • 5 have felt they've had the opportunity to develop skills such as communication, organisation, decision making, taking initiative and time management
  • 5 are pursuing further volunteering opportunities
  • 2 have gone on to find work and 1 is actively looking for work
  • 2 have gone on to study further qualifications

Download the pdf at the top of this page for more detailed case studies.

Get involved in the group

If you feel that you or someone you know could benefit from some therapeutic gardening or just wish to experience the calming and restorative properties of being in nature, please contact Matty Cottrel-Jury on mjury@EdenProject.com.

If you live in the St Austell area, you can also contact Wheal Northey Surgery directly (Hayley Burgoyne, 01726 626840) who is referring patients to us via St Austell Healthcare.

When: Tuesdays and Thursdays between 12:15pm and 4pm

Where: Vounder Garden, a peaceful spot in Eden's outer estate based around an old farm building. Travel arrangements will be discussed after you have been referred.

See more detail about what we get up to each week in the pdf download at the top of this page.