GREEN-FINGERED veterans can transform a garden while helping to give themselves a focus.
A charity – Shore Leave Haslar – has been set up at the walled memorial garden in the grounds of the former Royal Hospital Haslar in Gosport.
The aim is to create a peaceful location for veterans to appreciate and to use gardening to help them recover after having left the forces.
Carol Wincott, chairwoman for the charity, moved to Gosport four years ago and fell in love with the gardens when she visited Haslar for the first time. She decided to do something to keep the garden alive.
She said: ‘This has only been going on for the past two and a half months but it’s taken off.
‘Haslar is so close to everybody’s hearts and so people want to help.
‘What I find fascinating is that Gosport has got some incredible history.
‘Haslar Hospital has always been a place of healing. Why not let it carry on being a place of healing and let it help other people?
‘This gives someone a bit more confidence and to recuperate and to give them a sense of self worth as well.’
David Rhodes, 29, was in the army but broke his neck and was forced to leave in 2002.
Since then he has struggled and recently moved to Gosport from Salisbury.
‘I wanted to get myself back into society and keep myself active,’ he said.
‘Seeing something from nothing growing into something that’s going to be used for the general public is great.
‘It’s given me something to get up for in the morning. It’s given me a purpose in life.
‘There is so much ground that can be put to good use rather than left to grow.’
Carol is hoping that working on the garden will benefit the local community too.
She wants to eventually start to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers and then sell them.
‘I would like to open it to the community,’ she added.
‘We have to be respectful to the fact that it’s a memorial garden but we would like to include the community.
‘There is so much history here that I would like to open it up for schools to come in from across the area too. It’s such a wonderful space.’
To volunteer or to make a donation, please visit shoreleavehaslar.org.