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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

ANBCouncil backs horticulture therapy initiative for veterans

Bench seat in Antrim Castle Gardens.

Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors have backed an initiative to provide horticulture therapy for veterans.

A scheme funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust will make up to £10,000 available to support delivery of the Defence Gardens Scheme in the borough.

The Defence Gardens Scheme offers therapeutic horticulture which can be adapted to suit the needs of a group, individual and season. It is proposed to provide two 10-week courses for up to eight veterans at locations in Antrim and Newtownabbey.

These will be delivered by a horticulturist and horticultural therapist. On completion, participants will be offered options such as volunteering at other gardens, training and if appropriate, employment support.

Commenting at a recent meeting of the council’s Community Planning Committee, Airport Ulster Unionist Alderman Paul Michael BEM said:

“I am delighted to see this on the agenda. I brought this to council in June 2021 in my role as Veterans’ Champion.

“It is a great opportunity for mental health and well-being of veterans and for them to meet and gather with other veterans. This scheme is being rolled out across Northern Ireland.”

Antrim DUP Councillor Paul Dunlop BEM stated:

“Myself and the mayor recently met with the Defence Gardens Scheme co-ordinator at Antrim Castle Gardens through the Centenary of Northern Ireland Working Group.

“I mentioned the Centenary Garden and asked if that could become one of the areas for the Defence Scheme for them to make use of.”

In 2021, the council agreed a flowerbed at Clotworthy House in Antrim Castle Gardens would be made available for the use of ex-service personnel in support of the well-being initiative.

The council was approached by the Reserve Forces’ & Cadets’ Association for Northern Ireland (RFCA NI) to make the flowerbed available to the Defence Gardens Scheme to deliver and develop nature-based therapy for service leavers and veterans. Participants will tend this bed and carry out gardening and maintenance.

Recently, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council agreed it would develop a section of Curran Park in Larne as a community garden as part of the Defence Gardens Scheme.


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