the heal­ing power of gar­den­ing

Lucy Belsey was al­ways a keen gar­dener, but it took a dev­as­tat­ing accident to re­mind her it was not just a job, but fun­da­men­tal to her emo­tional wellbeing

EDP Norfolk - - CONTENTS - WORDS: Rachel Buller

As a child, Lucy Belsey was al­ways in the gar­den, learn­ing from her mum about the dif­fer­ent plants and pot­ter­ing around in the sun­shine.

Those spe­cial early years un­wit­tingly fos­tered a life-time pas­sion for gar­den­ing – and be­came some­thing which would guide her and bring joy through the tough­est of times.

“My mum was al­ways a very keen gar­dener and taught me most of what I know about gar­den­ing,” says Lucy. “At school I wanted to be­come a theatre nurse, but when my mum was di­ag­nosed with pan­cre­atic cancer, and sadly died when

I was 17, I sud­denly felt that wasn’t the path I wanted. I wanted some­thing I could con­nect with, some­thing I was pas­sion­ate about and meant

some­thing, and that was gar­den­ing.”

She stud­ied hor­ti­cul­ture and gar­den de­sign at col­lege, and af­ter spend­ing a few years work­ing in the cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment, she felt it was time to pur­sue her life­long am­bi­tion to launch her own gar­den de­sign busi­ness.

Last year, Lucy set up Lucy’s Gar­den at Surling­ham and within the first year found her­self ex­hibit­ing at the Royal Nor­folk Show, win­ning gold for her in­cred­i­ble gar­den.

“I had thrown ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing into my show gar­den and wanted it to be perfect, to prove that yes, I can do this. It was an amaz­ing re­sponse and I sud­denly found my­self in­cred­i­bly busy.”

But then in Septem­ber, Lucy suf­fered a hor­rific accident play­ing hockey – shat­ter­ing her shoul­der, break­ing bones and re­quir­ing three hours of surgery which re­quired sev­eral months of re­cov­ery.

Un­able to drive and in great dis­com­fort and pain, she says she strug­gled sleep­ing and as the win­ter nights pulled in, she be­gan to strug­gle.

“The con­sul­tant said the in­juries were like those usu­ally sus­tained in a car accident. It was a com­pletely freak accident. The sport, along with gar­den­ing, had got me through some very trau­matic times, like los­ing my mum, and sud­denly I couldn’t do that or work. I def­i­nitely got a lit­tle bit lost.”

Her re­cov­ery left her feel­ing iso­lated and strug­gling with her men­tal health. It was dur­ing one of her re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ap­point­ments when her ther­a­pist

likened the re­cov­ery of the hu­man body to gar­den­ing – the need for nur­tur­ing, love and op­ti­mal con­di­tion­ing – that she be­gan to move for­ward.

“I tried to re­mem­ber what brought me into gar­den­ing in the first place and that was the joy of grow­ing and nur­tur­ing things with a pur­pose, of learn­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate the lit­tle things, that’s what my mum did with me. It was win­ter, but there was still so much to take joy from.

“Gar­den­ing isn’t al­ways about the phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, like digging up weeds or cut­ting the grass, it is about be­ing mind­ful of its jour­ney through­out the sea­sons. The ben­e­fits to your men­tal health can be ex­traor­di­nary and I want peo­ple to see their gar­den as a place to aid their wellbeing and that it is easy to in­cor­po­rate things to help that, what­ever its size,” she says.

“Some­times we need to step back from our busy lives, and get out­side in the gar­den, even if it is just for five min­utes while you drink your cof­fee. It is a great way to es­cape those stresses.”

Lucy has played hockey since the age of seven, play­ing in the na­tional league for Har­leston Mag­pies. She will need fur­ther shoul­der surgery this month, but this, she says, is a pos­i­tive step.

“This op­er­a­tion will try to im­prove the range of move­ment I have as it is only about 50% at the mo­ment. I re­ally miss hockey and ini­tially my re­ac­tion was to re­move my­self en­tirely from the club, like rip­ping off a plas­ter, I didn’t want to be there, but now I think you never know what might hap­pen in the fu­ture.”

The accident has im­pacted her work, but she says thank­fully she works with a land­scaper who can do the dif­fi­cult phys­i­cal side.

“I could prob­a­bly bum­ble along, but I want more than that. I want to be able to dig a hole and plant a tree, I like to get my hands dirty.”

‘I tried to re­mem­ber what brought me into gar­den­ing in the first place – the joy of grow­ing and nur­tur­ing things with a pur­pose’

Read Lucy’s gar­den­ing blog at lucys­gar­

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