Pop Brixton offers urban gardening workshops to fight stress this Men’s Health Week

A Brixton pop up is calling for volunteers to come to free weekly workshops to tend to community green spaces and improve mental health.

Urban Growth invites volunteers from all over London to come to its free weekly workshops and tend to its botanical garden in Pop Brixton filled with ornamental flowers and vegetables.

Community gardening is a growing concept which helps to appease stress and increase mental wellbeing, and this particular garden is an unexpected treasure hidden behind Brixton overground and underground stations.

Urban Growth Learning Gardens project manager Sebastian Wood said: “We’re trying to green up an otherwise grey space.

“We also try to offer activities to help people connect with nature and each other.

“We offer the opportunity to learn – about how plants grow, how nature works, the way the sun is in the sky, microclimates, or even carpentry.”

The group operates under the five ways to wellbeing; connecting with others; being active; paying attention to your surroundings; learning; and giving back to community life.

The Brixton garden is only one of Urban Growth’s many projects which attempt to bring nature back into concrete-heavy London.

Right next to Brixton Hill, Urban Growth has developed an orchard where Mr Wood hopes to have a positive influence – even if just for fifteen seconds – on commuters passing by.

“With the orchard, we aimed to beautify a common space where thousands of people walk past every day on the way to work,” he said.

“It is a great place to diversify and a highly available food source for the local ecosystem.

“It also protects the surroundings. Since we put the orchard in, there’s been a return of jays and there was even a rainbow looking pheasant in there once – here in the middle of south west London!

“By joining us at any of our sites, you are giving back to the local community in some form.”

According to London’s Environment Strategy from May 2018, Londoners avoid £950 million per year in health costs due to public green space.

But, these benefits may soon be under threat; the Environment Strategy also points out that 75% of London boroughs expect a 10-20% cut to their park budgets.

Mr Wood said: “For too long we have orientated the urban design and planning around vehicle-based infrastructure.

“We cater to a low density form of transport, it takes up a lot of space, a lot of resources and produces a lot of pollution as well, and it is increasingly putting pressure on national health – and ecological health.”

The statistics released by Men’s Health Forum in honour of men’s health week show that many men struggle to seek help when suffering from mental health disorders.

By teaching both male and female Londoners how to garden, Urban Growth is hoping to remind them how to slow down and live in the moment.

Volunteers are able to care for edible or ornamental plants, taking them from seeds to harvesting the full plant, and they are able to take cuttings.

The workshops take place on Thursdays between 10-11.30am, with additional activities planned for groups at the weekend.

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