The last year has changed the way people live their lives and this has affected people’s mental health and wellbeing. At times I have felt lonely because of not being able to go to the shops or meet up with friends and family.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic began, the Culpeper Community Garden in Islington was one of the things that helped keep my spirits up. It ran projects that welcomed volunteers and created a sense of community, which is a rare thing in London. But that all changed in March 2020 when strict social distancing rules were brought in, meaning the Garden had to limit its team of volunteers to six.
I was lucky to be identified as one of the six because they saw me as someone who really benefitted from volunteering in a garden setting. But once the new rules came in the Garden’s once friendly and peaceful atmosphere was replaced with tension as people became conscious of keeping a safe distance and wearing face coverings. It was especially hard for people like me who can’t always wear a mask because of health conditions.
The Garden’s once friendly and peaceful atmosphere was replaced with tension as people became conscious of keeping a safe distance and wearing face coverings.
I had previously suffered with depression and found that attending the gardens helped but after a few months of the new regime the depression returned, making attending the Garden too stressful. My anxiety levels increased a lot, which made me upset and on edge and it became hard to communicate with people without getting stressed out.
Having said all that, the Garden staff do their best to keep a sense of community by keeping in contact with volunteers and they and the volunteers try to encourage me to attend the Garden to help keep it tidy or just to talk to the other volunteers.
In London I hear people often talk about lack of community spirit, but community gardens help bring communities together in good and bad times, which improves people’s mental health and wellbeing and creates lifeline friendships.
The spirt of the local community is still here and we are all, including myself, just trying to keep life as normal as we possibly can in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.
In the Culpeper Community Garden it can be so peaceful at times, hearing nothing but the birds in the trees and looking at the flowers and many different varieties of wildlife inside the garden. It can seem like paradise. It’s such a contrast to life outside those gates, with the sounds of cars driving by, drunk people shouting, bikes passing and shopkeepers continuously closing and opening their shutters. The Garden is the one place where I can see the changing of the seasons.
The last year’s been tough, but the spirt of my local community is still here and we are all, including myself, just trying to keep life as normal as we possibly can in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.