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Airing Pain 93: Easy Being Green

AP al fresco! The benefits of gardening for our physical and mental health, plus why, when it comes to green space, size isn’t everything…

This programme was funded by a grant from The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust.

Getting some gentle exercise tops the NHS’ list of ten self-help tips for managing pain, with distraction and communication also playing important roles. In this episode of Airing Pain we see how gardening can help with all three, and the benefit for our minds as well as our bodies.

We talk to Craig Lister and Chris Speirs from The Conservation Volunteers about their community garden project Green Gym, which brings together volunteers in shared green spaces in cities across the UK. One such space is Waterlow Park in London, where Paul chats to volunteers Maddy and Rosie about how the weekly sessions have helped them overcome difficulties including depression, anxiety and chronic pain.

A few miles away from Waterlow Park is the Rheumatology department at Whipps Cross Hospital, where clinical nurse specialist Margaretta Rooney created a garden designed specifically with the needs of patients with arthritis in mind. Raised beds allow people to sit down as they weed, reducing stress on the joints, and a patio means there’s no need for mowing or other heavy equipment.

For fifteen years, volunteers Brian and Josephine have been meeting up each week to help tend to the garden. Brian explains how, thanks to Margaretta, even with arthritis in his hands he still has green fingers and enjoys the social aspect of being out in the fresh air with his friend. Josephine describes the vital role the garden played in managing her chronic pain and depression, and the feeling of giving back to the department and hospital community.

Issues covered in this programme include: Arthritis, arts and crafts, CBT: cognitive behavioural therapy, depression, exercise, gardening, Green Gym, mental health, mindfulness, pancreatitis, Parkinson’s Disease, social therapy, alternative therapies and volunteering.


  • Chris Speirs, Health Development Manager The Conservation Volunteers
  • Craig Lister, Managing Director of the TCV Green Gym
  • Maria Schlatter, Project Officer at TCV Green Gym
  • Josephine Kilkenny, Whipps Cross Hospital garden volunteer
  • Brian Holmes, Whipps Cross Hospital garden volunteer
  • Margaretta Rooney, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Rheumatology at Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust
  • Rosie, Green Gym volunteer
  • Maddy, Green Gym volunteer.

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