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Clacton-on Sea’s new community garden, providing additional facilities for the town’s social prescribing programme, will be formally opened tomorrow (13 October 2021).

The garden is the result of collaboration between North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (NEECCG), site owners NHS Property Services (NHSPS) and Community Voluntary Services Tendring (CVST), who are the service providers and will manage the garden.

The garden sits in the centre of the patient and staff car park at the new Kennedy Way Medical Centre which opened in May this year providing a 21st century replacement for the former Epping Close Surgery and Frinton Road Medical Centre.  

Raised beds, grassed areas with benches, refreshment facilities and a ‘Men’s Shed’ are all now in place with further additions to the site planned in the coming weeks.

Mo Cocklin, a local patient and member of the Patient Participation Group, who volunteered to help set it up, said, “Since volunteering at the garden, I've met many new friends and I’ve enjoyed seeing everything come together.”

Debbie Reed is a Social Prescriber at Kennedy Way. She said, “We look at what is important to the individual then make connections with sources of help and support. The community garden will make a big difference to people’s health and wellbeing”

Ed Garratt, CEO, NEECCG, said: “This is an amazing opportunity to extend the current Social Prescribing provision for the people of Clacton and Holland-on-Sea and I’m delighted to see how the area has been so beautifully reconfigured for this purpose.

“My thanks go to NHSPS for redeveloping the site and to Sharon Alexander and her team of volunteers at CVST for all their hard work so far and their commitment to making the site a sustainable local resource.”

Jane Taylor, Senior Estates Development Manager, NEECCG, said “It has been a pleasure to watch the transformation of wasteland to the beginnings of a magical space which will improve the health and wellbeing of many of our local community through social interaction. 

“The project thus far has been a great example of collaborative and partnership working and I look forward to seeing the journey of transformation continue.”

The redesign of the area is part of NHSPS’s national Social Prescribing Programme. Paul Cross, Regional Partnership Director (East) at NHSPS said: “The programme looks to drive the transformation of NHSPS properties to allow local access for social prescribing care.

“Working with Groundwork Ltd and North East Essex CCG, this project will be vital in rehabilitating the local into post-lockdown life, giving them opportunity to socialise, access care and learn new skills.

Sharon Alexander, CEO CVST, said: “The community garden is within easy access of the medical centre so patients visiting Kennedy Way will hopefully drop by and join in with all that’s on offer such as the Men’s Shed, the allotment or to simply take a break. 

“It is a very exciting concept bringing patients, community groups and the NHS together seamlessly and it is only at the first stage.  We are now busy planning phase 2 which includes an outdoor gym, wildlife area, enhanced allotment patch, a meeting point for walks, volunteer recruitment and other activities.”

Holland Residents Association (HRA) made a donation to assist in establishing the garden and continues to work with volunteers. Andrew Dunnett, HRA Secretary, said “All of the research shows that being active and having networks of friends and supportive relationships makes people happier and healthier.

“That’s what ‘social prescribing’ is all about. This Community Garden may not yet be a verdant oasis of tranquillity and spiritual uplift but that is the vision and being part of the journey is important. Working together we are making a difference.”

Signs Made Easy Ltd in Clacton stencilled the inscription onto the ceremonial watering can free of charge. The can will be used to water the flower beds when the garden is declared officially open.

Kerron Hughes, the company’s Managing Director said: “I’m pleased to support Kennedy Way Community Garden and encourage a project that brings people outside. There’s no denying that spending time outdoors has positive benefits to mental, physical and social wellness.”