The Sparkle Coach: A rooftop allotment can be what you need to grow
“Fresh air boosts mood, sleep and helps your physical health; growing your own vegetables and consuming earth-grown nutrients are incredible for your health, immunity and overall health, not to mention sustainability of our planet and ourselves": All messages I’ve recited more than ever during this past year as I, like many others, have been trying to go back to basics.
But what if you don’t have a garden? What if, like me, you struggle to even know where to start with sowing seeds let alone have the space at home to do so?
An urban shopping centre is offering accessible rooftop allotments for its shoppers, local residents and those of us working within cities.
From gardening clubs to owning a mini plot, the Ridings Shopping Centre is much more than a collection of shops, it’s a community hub nestled in a fast-paced part of Wakefield city centre, cushioned between busy bus routes, sky-scraping flats and a commuter route for those utilising its car park or hiking through.
And now we explore one of their hidden gems, offering eco-therapy as a sustainable solution for the demands of those of us living a busy city life who don’t have the luxury of their own garden or like me, they may have an Instagram-friendly compact concrete jungle with no clue of where to start with my own plant pot, let alone allotment plot!
They partnered up with district wide social enterprise Incredible Edible to create this vital space because they know how important accessible nature plots are for mindfulness, how growing your own can reduce stress levels and gardening is even a great form of low impact aerobic exercise burning 150 calories in 30 minutes, perfect for all ages and abilities.
“Incredible Edible is about making a difference by growing your own healthy local food and turning where you live into more vibrant and resilient communities.”
And as I am a digitally-savvy girl of juxtapositions, I love a good ‘hike’ around the shops nestled inside the Ridings Centre and incidentally carrying shopping bags whilst walking is a good resistance workout, I have discovered the vital importance of getting outdoors and appreciating the natural world to transform my well-being.
I am a big believer that nature should be inclusive to all, regardless of your background, so it was quite literally a breath of fresh air to discover that The Ridings has these rooftop mini allotments for everyone regardless of ability.
“Nature is our great untapped resource for a mentally healthy future.
“Despite this, many of us are not accessing or benefiting from nature. Teenagers in particular appear to be less connected with nature and around 13 per-cent of UK households have no access to a garden.
"We want to challenge the disparities in who is and who isn’t able to experience nature. Nature is not a luxury. It is a resource that must be available for everyone to enjoy - as basic as having access to clean water or a safe roof over our heads. Local and national governments need to consider their role in making this a reality for everyone, and we will be talking about how they can do so during the week" - Mental Health Awareness Week 2021.
As an advocate social prescribing which suggests that there are lots of ways to support our mental well-being rather than purely medicalised treatment, such as embracing the natural world and simple pleasures like plants and growing-my-own which prior to lockdown, I hadn’t been tapping into anywhere near enough, not to mention that it should be as simple as taking deep breaths for a meditative brain booster, with a 20 minute mindful pause boosting our productivity by up to 70 per-cent.
Yet, it’s estimated that people check their smartphones every 12 minutes of the day, but imagine if that attention was decluttering our minds through sowing seeds to bloom, rather than dulling it with consistent social media scrolling?
But as a working single mum who straddles between writing health blogs, presenting well-being vlogs as well as writing columns on mind and body fitness for all, even I have found it difficult to always access this daunting term of ‘nature.’
So the fact that these no-strings attached pressure mini rooftop allotments are available to all regardless of transport, lifestyle, experience or budget, just shows how one small act of sowing a seed of creating community gardens in the most unusual of settings, could actually be the perfect solution for creating a vibrant city centre again, a heartfelt community hub with the realities of modern life.
For us all to be well we need to connect, be active, learn new skills, give to others and pay attention to the present (NHS: The Five steps to well-being).