Over the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to bring 2 parts of my life together. And I think I’ve achieved it.
Part 1: The Rainbow Community Garden, Hull
The first part of my life involved here is my research (and growing personal involvement) in a fantastic little project in North Hull – the Rainbow Garden.
I’ve been researching how gardening in this space impacts wellbeing. My initial thoughts on this have been published in The Conversation but the research is still ongoing.
On a personal level, I’ve found spending time in the garden to be incredibly therapeutic, and I’ve met some amazing people there too. If you want to know more about them, you can look them up on Facebook.
The Rainbow Garden is a community space off Endyke Lane in the North Hull Estate. It’s open to all, and you can grow veg and salad there in the communal raised beds and greenhouse, or in mini-allotments. The mini-allotments are a great idea for those who don’t want to take on the commitment of a full-size allotment but who still want to try their hand at a little growing.
The garden is also a haven for wildlife, such as insects, birds and amphibians. And did I mention that it’s beautiful, even in winter? I’m especially in love with the well-established willow arch.
But the most important thing about the garden is the welcoming atmosphere. Emma or Brenda will always greet you with a smile (and, perhaps more importantly, the offer of a cuppa). They’ll give you a job to do, if you want one. And if, like me, you need guidance on what is a weed and what is a plant that shouldn’t be yanked out by its roots, they will be happy to show you.
You can learn about composting, and about weeding without resorting to chemical weedkillers. You can learn what that tree is called, and someone can probably tell you what sort of bird that is, eating from the feeder over there.
In short, the garden is a “happy place” in the words of one of its volunteers. And there are quite a few of us in need of a happy place.
Part 2: Ultra-running
OK, so that heading is misleading. While the second part of my life which has become entwined with the Rainbow Garden is indeed ultra-running, I’m not the one who has been doing the running.
This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about me. The furthest I’ve ever run is a half marathon, and I made such a huge fuss about that, you’d think I’d climbed Everest.
No, I’ve become involved in ultra-running by helping a friend write a blog and do a bit of fundraising, in relation to his ultra-running. Meet John Hunsley.
Here he is in Morocco, where he ran the fearsome Marathon des Sables, a six day expedition across unforgiving terrain, in punishing heat. To understand why he would do such a thing, you’d probably need to read his blog. Go on and take a look if you’ve time. It’s really good – I helped him write it 🙂 . I also helped him set up a You Tube playlist, where you can find out what it’s like to train for ultra-marathons in the slightly less glamorous setting of North East Lincolnshire.
John raised funds for pet charity Blue Cross when he ran the Marathon des Sables. He did this in memory of his late wife, Janice, who was a one-time colleague of mine, as well as a good friend. Janice was the nurse manager at the Blue Cross Animal Hospital in Grimsby, and I count myself lucky to have met her and worked with her back in 2002-2004. Janice died in September 2018, after she suffered a brain heamorrhage. She is sorely missed by many.
John used the challenge of running the Marathon des Sables to help him cope with his loss. And he didn’t stop running when he got home. He signed up straight away for his next challenge – the Cape Wrath Ultra. This run may not be in the desert (rather the opposite, since it’s in the Scottish Highlands) but it’s going to be tough in a lot of other ways. Not least, the route looks kind of hilly…
So, when John began to consider whether he might raise awareness and funds for another great cause, I pointed him in the direction of the Rainbow Garden. And he loved it, as you can see in this video…
The 2 parts make a whole: Ultra-running for the Rainbow Garden
I had a feeling that the Rainbow Garden would appeal to John. He understands all too well the value of time spent outdoors, carrying out physical activity, challenging yourself and meeting people, in maintaining mental and emotional (as well as physical) wellbeing. His own wellbeing was put under immense stress through Janice’s illness and his ultimate loss. And running has helped him to keep going. He’s also got an interest in gardening, since that actually forms a big part of his day job!
I hope I can help John to raise awareness about his challenge. It would be great to inspire others to push out of their comfort zones and see what they can achieve. I am practising a little of what I preach here – I’ve entered a local 10K run this summer.
Importantly, the message I want to get across in raising awareness of the Rainbow Garden along with that of a grand, exciting challenge like John’s, is that you don’t have to do something huge to make a difference to your wellbeing. You can if, like John, you are that way inclined. But if you are like me and your ambitions in terms of physical activity are a little more modest, you can still get something out of an outdoor activity.
This is where projects like the Rainbow Garden come in. The lovely Emma and Brenda can provide tea, sympathy, and horticultural guidance. All you have to do is walk through the gate.
I know that people are constantly raising funds for one thing or another, and I’d hate for anyone to feel pressure to donate. Please, if you are interested in finding out more about John and the Garden, follow his blog or their Facebook pages, without feeling obliged to do anything more. If you do have a little cash to spare though, you can support them here.