29 May 2011
Last updated at 05:18
Headley Court, the dedicated armed forces rehabilitation centre in Surrey, has started a new gardening therapy project for recovering personnel with the opening of a refurbished greenhouse and allotment area. The BBC's Caroline Wyatt went along to see how the servicemen were benefiting from the facilities.
The atmosphere inside the greenhouse at Headley Court is one of tranquillity, where the bombs and bullets of Afghanistan and Iraq that brought the men here feel like another world.
Medical evidence shows that horticulture provides physical, neurological and psychological rehabilitation, testing patients' motor skills, as well as their strength and endurance, while being outdoors is known to reduce stress and help concentration.
The idea of using horticulture as therapy here came from Maj Pete Lefeuvre (left), a physiotherapist and keen gardener. He says that horticultural therapy is as much about the psychological benefits of doing something meaningful - and watching things grow - as about the physical benefits of standing up, bending down or moving around.
"We've put down the roots to encourage patients to experience different activities, which all aids the rehabilitation from their injuries," says Maj Lefeuvre. "By varying the rehabilitation methods used here, patients are kept stimulated and focused on their goals on the path to recovery."
Guardsman Lamin Manneh of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards lost three limbs in Helmand last year. He is already a keen gardener, and for him, this is also a chance to hone a skill that could lead to a new job later on. His parents in Gambia run a farmstead. "It's green in here, and if you're inside all day doing physical therapy, you need to come somewhere green or be outside, and doing this is relaxing. It's brilliant."
Outside, the soil is being dug vigorously by volunteers from the Queen Elizabeth Foundation, a local charity which provides intensive vocational rehabilitation for unemployed disabled adults experiencing multiple barriers to work.
Some of the horticulture and construction trainees are themselves former service personnel.
Soon, they will be lending a helping hand in the creation of allotments and a fruit-growing area within the walled garden at Headley Court.
For the young servicemen at Headley Court who have to come to terms with life-changing injuries, the hope is that the gardening therapy will help ease their path as they take the first steps towards physical and mental recovery. Photos: Emma Lynch/BBC