A year after the Rosendale Road GP practice moved to its new, purpose built premises on Croxted Road in February 2018, practice staff and patients led by Dr Rosemary Leonard met informally to explore how the garden spaces incorporated into The Dulwich Estate's development at the former Unigate Dairy site might offer potential for an inclusive, multi-sensory space to be enjoyed all year round, promote well-being and perhaps even forge greater links with local community groups who don't have gardens.

From this, the Old Dairy Health Centre (ODHC) Gardening Group was born: a group of patients who dedicate some of their time voluntarily to develop and tend the spaces. The group's initial meetings have resulted in swift progress, thanks to the excitingly varied range of skills, backgrounds and enthusiasms contributed to date by members -- from garden design planning that has given shape to members' vision for how the remodelled gardens might look; year round planting knowledge, and social media expertise that has helped the group keep in touch between meetings, to good, old-fashioned digging and weeding muscle, donations of compost bags, the loan of a wheelbarrow to remove debris and the planting of primulas in the front entrance spaces to add a splash of initial Spring colour.

At the time of writing, the central garden space within the complex has been cleared and measured out, and raised beds have been constructed and put in place. It is hoped these can be used for growing vegetables -- helping to promote not just gardening for exercise and well being, but also healthy eating choices.

"I really enjoy our gardening sessions, sharing experiences and learning about things like garden design and planting with people from all different walks of life," said group member Jorges.

Dr Rosemary Leonard added: "It’s been really exciting, watching the garden take shape and developing ideas for how it might be used inclusively. We hope it can become a lasting community asset for Dulwich".

More information about the ODHC Gardening Group can be found at: https://theodhc.co.uk/odhc-gardening-group/, including the plans for the gardens and the date of the group's next meeting. If you are interested in getting involved, please come along -- the group welcomes volunteers with lots, little or no prior gardening experience. It would also love to hear from local community groups who might be interested in using the gardens.

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