On a grey Tuesday morning, I met up with the Friends of Seaton Park to find out about the group’s hopes of branching out – and learned how volunteering has helped one John Lewis worker cope with a stressful time.
Mary Middleton is as embedded in Seaton Park as the plants she tends to.
There’s barely a regular visitor the cheery pensioner doesn’t know – nor a dog she doesn’t stop to pet.
Now the leader of the Friends of Seaton Park gardening group is appealing for donations of unwanted tools to help spread the joy of volunteering.
After being sidelined for much of this year, the green-fingered collective recently resumed their efforts to keep the popular Aberdeen spot looking its best.
The park has become a “godsend” to many since the onset of the pandemic, with more and more locals coming to appreciate the amenities they have on their doorstep.
Meanwhile, recent studies have shown how gardening has helped many cope with the misery of lockdown.
The volunteers are now keen to allow others to help out over the summer – regardless of their experience or whether they have their own garden tools.
Anyone is welcome to join – no expertise required
Taking a break from trowelling, Mary said: “We have been finding we don’t have enough tools for people who want to come and help.
“Our appeal is for old garden equipment, anything left in a shed that could still be put to good use.
“Although we are a gardening group, you don’t need to be professional or experienced to join.
“The park is being used a lot by people who don’t have gardens, who live in the nearby schemes or multi-storey blocks, and they would be very welcome to come along and just help out.
“We would be happy to see anyone who wants to come along for an hour or two, even if it’s mainly just for a chat.”
The group is in specific need of edgers, forks, hoes, a wheelbarrow, kneelers and gardening gloves.
The members take their instruction from the council gardeners who tend to the park, working closely with them to work our what needs done.
Mary added: “The park has been an absolute godsend to people during lockdown, and we have seen more people slow down and talk to each other as of late.
“It is a special place and we just try our best to help out.”
Volunteering helps Alison cope with job worries
Alison Bandeen is one of scores of John Lewis employees who have been left in limbo since the company announced plans to close its Aberdeen store.
But unlike most, Alison doesn’t just have her own job to worry about.
As one of the shop’s group representatives, she has been attending meetings about the proposed closure on behalf of seven other colleagues.
Three weeks ago, the partner in the store’s operations team joined the gardening group and says she has found it “therapeutic” during the stressful time.
Alison said: “I have worked at John Lewis for three years and now I am part of these meetings aimed at helping others to understand what’s happening.
“We were obviously quite shocked and emotional when we heard the news.
“But I’ve found coming here on a Tuesday morning has helped give me that balance, and made me more able to support others.”
‘It felt like my purpose was gone’
She added: “I didn’t realise how much I was going to enjoy it. Coming here is my favourite morning of the week.
“When your routine goes, it feels like your purpose is gone.
“But volunteering can give you that bit of focus and it’s really been a huge help.”
Lorna Green has always had a soft spot for Seaton Park and began volunteering when she retired a few years ago.
She was inspired to get involved after hearing a talk by Mary, and soon “dragged along” her husband Malcolm to lend a hand too.
Lorna said: “We get a huge amount of positive feedback, people stop and say thank you.
“I remember coming here when my children were young, the park means a lot to me.”
The group meets every Tuesday morning at 10am, weather permitting.
Click on the below article for more on the study which found people with a garden were able to cope better with the strain of lockdown.