PATIENTS at Northallerton’s Friarage Hospital mental health unit have benefitted from flexing their green fingers by reviving an unloved garden.

The garden and allotment is part of ward 15 at the Friarage Hospital, an adult mental health inpatient ward run by Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.

A number of fundraising events have been held in recent months to help raise money to develop the garden including a raffle at a local cafe and an Easter hamper raffle.

Kathryn Megginson, a health care assistant who has helped create the garden, said: “With funds raised the patients and staff have bought two greenhouses and a collection of vegetables and fruit to plant including leeks, runner beans, tomato plants and pumpkins.

“The food harvested from the allotment is cooked on the ward so patients can plant, grow, pick, prepare and eat their produce.”

Patients can access the allotment throughout the day, as well as become green-fingered during organised therapeutic gardening group, which encourage them to learn gardening skills and interact with other patients.

Ms Megginson added: “As well as working in the garden, people can relax and enjoy the blooming sunflowers and bedding plants which are also brightening up the previously underused area.

“The new garden and allotment has been a great way to get patients involved in an outdoor activity, and one which certainly reaps results. The produce and flowers grown are simply beautiful, delicious and something our patients and staff are very proud of.

“It gives patients the opportunity to express themselves in a therapeutic way - and they are then able to bring this experience back to the ward and make a link between the ward and garden.”

Last year charity Mind published a report on the outcomes of eco-therapy projects across England.

It said: “Eco-therapy as an intervention that improves mental and physical health and wellbeing by supporting people to be active outdoors; doing gardening, food growing or environmental work.”

The charity concluded that eco-therapy services can help people to look after their mental wellbeing, and help the recovery of people with existing mental health problems.

Charity Thrive also uses gardening therapy to bring about positive changes to the lives of people by improving their physical and mental health, teaching skills and improving attitudes and behaviours.

It also uses the garden as a safe and secure place to develop someone's ability to mix socially, make friends and learn practical skills that will help them to be more independent.