Exeter Community Wellbeing – A Green, Growing City
Published: 12 June 2020
Exeter Community Wellbeing is three months old. It doesn’t sound like a long time but we are stunned by the amount of change we have seen over this period. We continue to take calls from individuals requesting support or advice and volunteers offering their time and skills. Strong community volunteer networks are firmly in place and through these well-oiled machines people’s essential requirements are being continuously met and exceeded. We have heard stories from our volunteers this week about the ideas people are sharing to bring happiness to themselves and others.
Green fingers for wellbeing
A Wellbeing Exeter Community Builder put us in touch with Nicki Carolyn, who has set up the Exeter Houseplant Enthusiasts Facebook Group to share photos, stories and even plant cuttings with neighbours. Houseplants are good for a healthy indoor environment and are a great way to nurture nature if you can’t get outdoors or into a garden of your own.
Nicki says, “I've always loved plants and gardening. Years ago I ran a polytunnel where we grew lots of vegetables and I had a vast collection of cacti and succulents. We also had a veg garden. I went to a small horticultural college in Cornwall and we supplied plants and herbs to the Eden Project. Ill health meant I had to stop doing this and it was several years before I got back into plants, but I always missed it.
“I decided to start growing a collection of houseplants last year. I realised that even though outdoor gardening was not an option, houseplants were a great alternative. I find it really therapeutic for my mental and physical wellbeing and it's so lovely to have a hobby I am able to do. Watching them grow gives me a sense of achievement and it's a great way to make new social connections with others through online plant groups, and a good talking point too. I often gift cuttings to people so they can start their own collection. I find tending to my plants very relaxing and peaceful, a good way of bringing nature indoors.
“During lockdown I have felt very fortunate to have this hobby to keep me occupied. I would recommend it to anyone feeling a bit fed up with being stuck inside, or to anyone looking for a new, relaxing but rewarding hobby. I decided to set up the Facebook group Exeter Houseplant Enthusiasts to share my passion for plants with others, talk to other collectors, and to offer advice and encouragement to anyone who would like to have a go but is unsure where to begin. I particularly have an interest in developing the idea that having a therapeutic hobby can improve mental wellbeing.
“I thought it would also be nice to share photos of my collection, some are quite unusual. Long term it would be great to be able to swap plants and cuttings with other collectors in the area. I would also like to donate small plants to be sold to raise money for local charities.”
Exeter Wild City
The weather has been kind to us recently, with a good mix of sun and rain for the plants. Spending more time at home coupled with the season means that many of us have been finding respite in tending our gardens and admiring the natural world. Gardening is good for physical fitness, too. You’d be surprised at how much stretching and calorie burning gardening involves (or perhaps not, if you’ve had a recent weeding session). The Exeter Wild City initiative is in full bloom around us. Residents from Codrington Street got together with Devon Wildlife Trust in association with Exeter City Council some time ago and planted wildflower seeds in nooks and crannies such as a small patch in the Triangle Car Park. There are many Wild City sites all around us, as well as the wildlife that springs up seemingly against the odds. It’s great to see nature flourishing in and around our communities.
The green fingers don’t stop there, though. Members of the Newtown and St. Leonard’s community have been planting sunflowers outside their houses as a way to cheer people up. It’s their personal take on the idea of ‘reclaiming our streets’, a movement that has blossomed with the reduction of traffic and the springing up of things like street chalking – drawing pictures and leaving positive messages for others on pavements in eco-friendly chalk.
We are moving into the next phase. There is a sense of cautious optimism as people begin to step out and move around our city a bit more. With some ‘non-essential’ shops opening from Monday, it seems that life is inching its way out of lockdown as we learn a new way of living, traveling and being together. This crisis is not over yet. Most of us don’t feel ready for relief and celebration, especially as some of us are still isolated. But we are hearing of a growing sense of joy as we relax into our new reality, look forward to building a better future and make time for the people and things that are important to us.
Exeter Community Wellbeing
To volunteer your time or to request support, as an individual or a community group, get in touch with Exeter Community Wellbeing:
Phone: 01392 265000
Lines open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
Exeter Community Wellbeing is co-ordinated by a newly formed team including Wellbeing Exeter partners led by Devon Community Foundation, Exeter Community Initiatives and Exeter City Council. Funding partners include Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and Sport England.