History of the Charity

The Balsam Centre was initiated as a healthy living centre in 1999.  The Growing Space is a charity that forms part of the Healthy Living Centre and is also the name of The Centre’s productive gardens.  It was part of the Balsam Centre at its initiation and was constituted as an independent charity in 2000. The two charities are closely linked with a partnership agreement, a mutual trustee and employees working within the same projects team. Despite The Growing Space's close working relationship with The Balsam Centre it has developed as a small, but highly effective self-sufficient charity.

Since 2001 we have developed a range of gardening activities that contribute to The Centre’s ethos. We aim to de-stigmatise health issues, encourage socialising between different or isolated community groups and enable participation in activities that will improve mental health, social cohesion, and counteract the effects of social isolation. We base the development of our services on evidence produced through environmental psychology and clinical research.

To see photographs of how the gardens developed, click here

The Work of The Charity

The Growing Space provides services to adults and children living within a 10 mile radius of Wincanton who are recovering from, or currently experiencing, mental ill health, or whose disability or disadvantage can be redressed through developing a happier, more content lifestyle. The Charity provides a service unique to this area. There are no other agencies offering this sort of programme locally and it fills a gap in services provided by statutory medical and educational agencies.

Service delivery is undertaken by 3 paid members of staff and 10 volunteers. The Charity has worked successfully with 200 people per year since it was constituted in 2000. It offers planned gardening and horticultural activities that will contribute to the recovery process and/or build emotional resilience.

The charity’s core offer to its clients, beneficiaries and the community is to:
  • - provide land-based therapeutic interventions that contribute to recovery from mental ill health
  • - develop or restore emotional resilience in children and adults
  • - develop confidence, self-esteem, self-worth and contentment
  • - provide information and practical support on low environmental impact horticulture and gardening
  • - build community cohesion and social capital
  • - counteract the effects of social isolation by providing horticultural activities suitable for socialising.

  • Service Delivery and our Approach to Mental Health

    The Charity employs qualified Social and Therapeutic Horticulture workers. They have developed our services using contemporary research into the benefits of outdoor activities on the emotional wellbeing of children and adults, and have taken an innovative approach to improving and sustaining mental health and emotional well-being. Assisted by volunteers, they ensure that gardening activities are undertaken by a wide range of community members in a spirit of full inclusivity and mutual cooperation. They run a range of supported gardening groups where everyone’s input is equally valued whatever the reason for participation. Clients are involved according to the level of support they need, not to any specific disability or disadvantage they are experiencing. Clients are supported to achieve independence in their gardening activities here, move forwards towards life-long change, make new friends and come to a place where they can be themselves. The Centre's mental health worker encourages self-reflection, looking at inner strengths that got clients through past crises and applying these to future plans for an emotionally resilient and content life.

    The gardens, vegetables and fruit are maintained through communal gardening with everyone taking a share of the produce. This communal way of working has been shown to have a significant impact on building confidence and self esteem, social cohesion, empathy between disparate social groups and generations (especially peoples’ perception of young offenders), and significantly contributes to the recovery of those experiencing depression and anxiety. It also helps children begin to enter the 'adult' world.

    The Charity provides

    services to people of all ages and currently supports:

    • 20 Primary School Children (4 – 11 yrs)
    • 30 Young People (14 – 25 yrs)
    • 35 Adults (25 – 65 yrs)
    • 14 Adults (65+ yrs)


    The Gardens

    The Charity manages the gardens around the Balsam Centre and its own site adjacent to the centre. These were designed and are managed for a wide range of purposes – relaxation, exploration, socialising, therapeutic horticulture, vocational work experience, events, gatherings and quiet contemplation. They include an extensive lawn surrounded by interesting borders, landscaped front gardens, productive vegetable and fruit gardens, an orchard, quiet secluded seating areas, pre-school gardens, two large greenhouses and a tea room with educational resources area. The gardens have a significant impact on environmental improvements to the town centre and the public have unrestricted access during centre open hours. A wide range of plants, herbs and cut flowers are propagated.