Gardeners strive to help people with problems

Carol Wincott from Shore Leave in the memorial garden inside Haslar Hospital with volunteer David Rhodes
Carol Wincott from Shore Leave in the memorial garden inside Haslar Hospital with volunteer David Rhodes
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Life can be tough for serving and former members of the armed services.

With memories of war zones in the back of their minds, they can easily slip into depression.

But a caring group of volunteers in Gosport make sure there is somewhere they can can go to forget about any problems they have.

Haslar Memorial Garden, situated in a quiet corner on the grounds of the former Royal Hospital Haslar, was set up a year-and-a-half ago by Shore Leave Haslar.

The group is led by Carol Wincott and was named after the breaks the forces get back on land after being away.

Its purpose is to give serving and ex-serving personnel a beautiful space in which to unwind.

There are about 10 people who give up their time to grow fruit and vegetables, cut the grass, rake the leaves and give the place a good tidy up now and again.

Chris Lawrence, 52, of Gosport, has been involved with the project since she retired in November 2011.

She spends three days a week at the garden because she loves the chance to get outdoors.

‘I spend a lot of my time raking the leaves, that is my main mission in life,’ she says.

‘I absolutely just adore the place.

‘I love the outdoors and being in the fresh air.

‘It is also good exercise and means I don’t have to go to the gym.’

The private garden is exclusively for those who have been in the forces and to gain access you need to be put on a list.

But Chris wants to make people more aware of the work everyone does and says there are plans to open it up to more of the community in the future.

Chris used to worked at the military headquarters at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, as an administration officer.

As part of her role she booked pre-deployment courses for medical staff and transport to and from airports.

‘People can come down to the garden and do as much and as little as they like,’ she explains.

‘They can either help out or just sit and admire the place.

‘It’s somewhere where they can come and get away from the stresses and strains.

Chris adds: ‘When people come out of the services, it’s so easy for them to deal with problems by turning to alcohol.

‘They have got all kinds of problems.’

The garden is also home to foxes and badgers.

Photo albums have also been put on Shore Leave Haslar’s Facebook page which shows how the environment looks at different points of the year.