Therapy garden and home business put at risk by Merton Hall demolition

A charitable psychotherapist and curer of lifelong phobias will lose most of her therapeutic garden when Merton Hall is transformed into a worship hall and cafe.

Elaine Chambers, 69, and husband John Chambers, 56, discovered they will lose the majority of the outside space they have used for decades, when Merton Council confirmed a freehold swap between the Merton Hall site, to which the land belongs, and Elim Pentecoastal Church. 

The quietness of Elaine’s home and the serenity of her garden are paramount to the business’s success, which has grown over the past 13 years, and will be largely affected by music church services with adjacent cafe and children’s crèche.

Elaine said: “We live and work here and having this next door is going to be impossible.

“Coming here, it’s not like an office, it’s not a clinic, it’s like home from home.

“Sometimes if I have a client here in the evening, when it is so peaceful and I have got the fire lit, they sit down and they say ‘do you know what, I feel like I could tell you anything and this is just so comfortable.’

“And I think that’s part of why what I do works so well.”

THERAPY TROUGH: Clients plant seeds during therapy sessions in Elaine’s garden

When the couple moved in, the entire back garden was overgrown with nettles but Elaine rescued blackberry bushes, planted peartrees, grew giant rhubarb plants and started an allotment for her clients to help maintain.

Elaine transformed a grassy area at the back into a therapy space with tables and chairs for individual and group therapy sessions.

Clients also work with tools from a workbench Elaine made from reclaimed wood and can plant seeds during therapy sessions from a raised trough, built with her less-abled visitors in mind.

“Out here, people like talking, whether that means sitting here in bobble hats and woolly socks with a cup of warm soup in the winter or, in t-shirts if it’s the summer,” Elaine said.

“When you look after plants, they give back to you, and it ties in with the concept you have to feel good about yourself before you can feel good about anybody else.

“My clients are feeling like life worth living because there is something to look forward to when they plant a seed and they know it’s going to grow each week and they can eat it.

“It’s a real excitement.”

Elaine’s plans to expand her garden therapy project to work with Spear refuge in Ham, where she is a volunteer, have been put on hold as she continues to explore the potential ways she can minimise the affects of the freehold swap on her home business.

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