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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.

More infor­ma­tion:


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