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Dane Harrison blossomed at John Hall Gardens in Leek

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: February 17, 2014

By Belinda Hargreaves

  • Former John Hall Garden user Dane Harrison with Service Lead Gina Sczesniok.

  • Former John Hall Garden user Dane Harrison with Service Lead Gina Sczesniok.

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SITUATED next to Leek's main park is a community garden which gives visitors the opportunity to walk around and buy plants nurtured at the site.

But is also a venue for people with mental health issues to be able to blossom – and even learn skills to potentially help them get jobs.

The John Hall Gardens is run by the national charity 'Rethink Mental Illness'.

Dane Harrison, aged 29, is one of those garden users who has managed to 'move on' successfully from the project.

Dane, whose nickname is 'The Power', lives in Cellarhead and has been attending John Hall Gardens for four years.

He has now managed to secure a work experience role with a park grounds maintenance team with the hope of, in time, gaining paid employment.

Dane, who has a mental health illness, said: "I feel that working at the gardens has helped me a lot.

"Everyone here has been really helpful and supported me. They have explained everything to me."

Now, and since just before Christmas, Dane is carrying out work experience with the Staffordshire Moorlands and High Peak Horticulture and Grounds Department, which, among other sites, looks after Brough Park, in Leek.

Dane said: "I really am enjoying working with the park team. I have been litter picking and helping to mow the lawns. And this year they will be training me in hedge-cutting.

"I have also been doing a bit of grave digging for the council which I enjoy too. I just love working outdoors."

Service Lead Gina Sczesniok, who has worked with Rethink for nearly three years, said: "Whenever Dane has been given a task he has gone and done it with 100 per cent and with limited supervision.

"He has learned over the years to use his own initiative. He is always on time, never late.

"Dane's development has grown and his confidence and self-esteem have really come on.

"Although we are missing Dane at the gardens, this is what this service is all about and I am pleased that Dane has had a positive 'move on'."

Dane added: "I have made new friends doing work experience with the council. My next ambition is to be able to get a paid job with them."

The walled John Hall Gardens has been run by Rethink Mental Illness for 14 years.

The former derelict site,is adjacent to Brough Park, with access off Fowlchurch Road.

The venue not only helps people with a mental illness to rebuild their lives, but also gives members of the public an opportunity to volunteer and enjoy helping with the horticulture project.

Visitors are also invited, during opening hours, to take a look around the garden, as well as purchase a range of produce including bedding plants, shrubs, hanging baskets, fruit and vegetables.

And during the summer months, visitors are invited to sit on the mowed lawn and enjoy a picnic.

The John Hall Gardens are open Tuesday to Thursday from 10am and 3pm, and on Fridays from 10.30am until 3pm.

The team has a host of additional activities lined up this month including: Garden Birds Workshop on Wednesday, February 12; and Make Your Own Bird Feeder on Thursday, February 20.

To find out more about Rethink Mental Illness, and how to apply for a placement at the gardens, go online to www.rethink.org.

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