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Gardening For Health


Kilcooley Women's Centre were one of the organisations who designed and implemented the larger Kilcooley Allotments and Healthy Living Centre programme.  Emma Mooney, Health and Wellbeing Manager and Alison Blayney, Centre Director recognised the impact gardening and therapeutic horticulture can have on the health and wellbeing of an individual.  Kilcooley WC 'Secret Garden', a smaller sensory garden was developed in a small unused, overgrown courtyard within Kilcooley Primary School.  

Phase one is now complete.  With investment from 'Live Here Love Here' and Ards North Down PCSP, a small polytunnel was erected in the courtyard.  Whilst the courtyard consists of an upper and lower flagged terrace, the installation of decorative vegetable trugs, the area has been transformed to produce home-grown fruit and vegetables and for group work and training initiatives.

Phase 2 is now underway.  Using the theme of community safety, the project,using volunteers have continued the transformation using a bright beach hut seating area, a BBQ and Gazebo, raised beds and a wormery.

The secret garden, being inside a school building  is accessible by the 170 pupils, from P1 to P7, and the members of Kilcooley Women's Centre.  Under the guidance of our own theraputic horticulturist we cater to a range of clientele and is open to all ages and abilities.  Emma Mooney thanked the volunteers who cleared the area and have transformed it with weeks and weeks of dedication, to what is now an oasis for the children and adults.  She has been approached by projects across Ards North Down who want to recreate their own oasis, when they see what has been achieved in KWC.  We have had visits from other community groups from as far afield as Belfast, Greyabbey and beyond.  

The project is driven by an experienced market gardener who holds over 16 years' horticultural experience and owns his own gold-rated nursery. The market gardener's role is to direct children, womens gardening group and volunteers to maximise tunnel and trugs and promoting gardening as a useful health and wellbeing tool. The market gardener delivers a number of training initiatives, ranging from sessional workshops as 'tasters' to longer programmes with participants engaging in the full growing calendar, with the objectives of preparing, planting, maintaining and harvesting their crops.

Pauline Brown, Headteacher of Kilcooley Primary School said 'the positive outcomes of the garden initiative are fantastic,  particularly for children with additional needs.  They have progressed from not wanting to touch the soil, to eagerly planting and looking after their growing projects.  We have sent tomato and strawberry plants home, invited parents into workshops, and much much more.  We have an outdoor classroom, which will instill skills in the children which they will use throughout their lives.  It has also enabled us to incorporate important safety messages, all linked to the sensory garden.  

“Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful: they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul”
Luther Burbank

Programme Outline

Kilcooley WC offers an 18 session programmes covering the complete growing cycle to wowmen and volunteers.  

The programme will centre on fruit and vegetables with horticultural projects planned throughout the growing calendar. These will include gardening skills, hanging baskets, Spring and Summer containers and propagation (through seeds, sowing, cuttings etc.  The children learn about planning and teamwork, and currently are watching their inter-class pumpkin growing competition evolve.  Again to link into the community safety message, invited speakers will attend the judging of the pumpkins, will be involved in the carving workshop and judge the younger children's colouring competition.  

A typical programme following the growing calendar:

Autumn: Finishing harvesting and preserving your produce.

Spring: Planting, sowing seeds, propagation, preparing vegetable beds.

Summer: Maintaining trugs and beginning of harvest.

“A huge range of people from children to the very old can find comfort and real recovery through gardening and horticulture”
Monty Don

Why become involved?

Taking part in our trug gardening can provide a number of benefits to children and individuals:

  • Better physical health
  • Improved psychological health
  • Social benefits
  • Qualifications and skills
  • Access to the natural environment
  • Opportunity to grow your own fresh fruit, vegetable and flowers

The skills gained are transferable so that individuals can sow, plant and maintain their own garden/window boxes for growing or decorative outcomes.

For more information on the joint KWC and KPS horticulture initiative contact

Emma Mooney (KWC) or Pauline Brown (KPS)
c/o Kilcooley Primary School
Bangor BT19 1QS
Tel: 028 91478292