I grew up in Bristol and knew of Penny Brohn UK when it was Bristol Cancer Help Centre. I remember thinking, if I ever face cancer – I will go there. Twenty years later – I needed them. After treatment, I wanted something new to do and spotted a poster asking for garden volunteers. It described how areas were being redesigned to suit the needs of developing therapies.
I’ve studied Social and Therapeutic Horticulture, so was interested to see how this natural environment could support Penny Brohn’s work. It all felt right! A major bonus was that garden volunteers are appreciated for any time they can give and this suited my schedule.
Volunteers can be found digging, weeding, pruning and planting, but also beekeeping, bonfire building, compost making, weeding, feeding the birds, mending and painting seats and plant tubs, weeding, power washing paths, growing plants (at home) to sell, laying new paths, welcoming and organising groups of corporate volunteers, small lawn mowing, edging and much more. Did I say weeding?
Two other important activities are seat-testing and the mid-morning refreshment break – great for catching up with people. Ask anyone what they like best and they are likely to say the group friendship. This time also involves planning the weeks and months ahead, and Plant of the Day, where one of us informally presents on a plant or tree, so we gradually learn more about the wonderful garden.
Photographing the garden is my passion. My camera goes everywhere – Penny Brohn days are no exception. I’ve a comprehensive collection charting the garden’s development over the years.
I write and illustrate this website’s garden blog, News from the Garden folder and, sometimes, display on the National Centre’s Garden Notice Board. I’d like to do more with my photos and produce a short film of the garden or interactive digital book.
Penny Brohn’s garden is unique in the way it supports clients and visitors’ cancer journeys. Nothing is added that does not help this yet it’s a glorious garden in all seasons. I love and feel privileged to spend much time in the garden.