We’ve heard a lot about how lockdown affects mental health these past few months. The isolating effect of people being confined to their four walls was made worse for those lacking outdoor space. Appreciation for our gardens has increased hugely, and many of us fortunate to have one expressed sympathy for city flat dwellers with scant access to greenery.

There’s no doubt that being outside in nature positively effects our wellbeing. It’s the premise behind Helmsley Walled Garden in North Yorkshire, which supports individuals with mental health issues through therapeutic horticulture. Watching the steady stream of visitors trickle through the gates this August, it’s clear to see how this beautiful space benefits people right across the board.


A few months ago, however, an entirely different set of circumstances was playing out. The cost of keeping the garden running stands at £11,000 per month, and the worry was that closure due to the pandemic would threaten the very existence of Ryedale’s beloved secret garden. A flurry of fundraising began, with manager June Tainsh launching an #OurSecretGarden appeal locally and across social media. The result, in this time of great challenge and difficulty, is a welcome success story.

In just two months, with the help of friends, volunteers the local and wider community, a total of over £50,000 was raised and the garden was well and truly saved. Doors reopened on the 1st August and this Yorkshire sanctuary is once again abuzz with visitors alongside the wild bees.

‘We are absolutely delighted at the response to the #OurSecretGarden appeal” says June. “It’s shown us how much the garden means to people and we are immensely grateful to everyone who supported us. It has given us a real spring in our collective step and a reinvigorated sense of purpose as we look to the future.”


Happily, the garden’s Vine House Café, run by twentysomething siblings Sam and Mollie Chapman, is also operating again. With its wonderful outdoor seating area, it’s the perfect spot for quarantine-weary customers to enjoy the freshest lunches, cakes and beverages. Prepared using produce from the garden wherever possible, the food coming out from the kitchen is a rainbow of colours.

Within the garden walls, the borders blaze with fiery blooms, and clematis scents the air. Bees hum amongst the wildflowers, plums and cherries glisten and the ducks cool off in the pond. When the humans left, nature carried on, but what a shame if all this were to take place unobserved.