TWIGS – a potted history
TWIGS (Therapeutic Work In Gardening Swindon) came into being in November 1997. It was created by Pride of Swindon winner Anne Billingham, who realised the therapeutic benefits that working with nature could bring to those experiencing mental health problems. At first TWIGS operated from the old Swindon Borough Council (SBC) Amenity Horticulture buildings (where the Manor Garden Centre now stands) and volunteers provided gardening and craft activities for around eight people.
The Amenity site closed and the land was then leased to the Manor Garden Centre. SBC began to build a purpose built unit for the use of community groups in 1998 and allocated the area that has become TWIGS Community Gardens for Community groups. At this time, this included TWIGS, Flowers and Butterflies (FAB) and Swindon and District Beekeepers. In early summer 1999 TWIGS began operating from the current building, opposite the summer house. Volunteers, service users and staff began the task of bringing the neglected area that is now the Garden site back under control.
Operating alongside the gardens, TWIGS has always been fortunate to have an inspirational and thriving craft studio plus an enterprising woodcraft department. Focusing on the creative process as a key ingredient within the recovery journey, many wonderful pieces are produced, often from recycled materials. You will be able to see several of these displayed throughout the Gardens and items are also available to purchase.
The Haven is at the far end of the site and is managed by FAB (Flowers and Butterflies). This area has been filled with local native plants and tended since 1995, it is a delightful succession of colour and insect life.
In 2003 TWIGS became a part of the Richmond Fellowship, a national, specialist provider of mental health housing and employment services. The trustees of The Olive Tree Cafe, established in 2011, successfully bid for the SBC contract that RF held in 2014 and subsequently added TWIGS alongside The Olive Tree Café and now manage these two distinct services.
Six staff and around 30 volunteers deliver the TWIGS service. Our funding has come from many sources, predominately SBC, the Big Lottery and Zurich. We are delighted to have gained the support of sarah*raven in 2017.
TWIGS is affiliated to THRIVE, the National Society for Horticultural Therapy and became one of ten regional Quality Champions to help promote the quality assurance scheme “Cultivating Quality”. TWIGS now provides places for up to 100 people who have the opportunity to work on projects across Swindon, linking us with the wider community. The Garden site is ever changing, as is our dedicated and skilled team of people who contribute to this special place, thank you for supporting our work – your help is much appreciated.