Prisoner rehabilitation initiative, The Clink Charity, will be taking its horticultural training programme beyond the walls of Her Majesty’s Prison Send in Surrey this year as head gardener and trainer Gary Gates heads to the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show to create a garden exhibit in support of horticultural therapy.

The Clink will be joining likeminded charity HighGround at Headley Court – formed to assist ex-military personnel and reservists in the transition from military to civilian life  – to support Miracle Gro’s planting team in creating a ‘Come to your Senses’ garden as part of its Miracle-Gro’wers Academy. HighGround provides a dedicated horticultural therapy service to injured service personnel from all three military services and following a successful three-year pilot programme, horticultural therapy has been fully integrated into the range of rehabilitation options available to patients at the Surrey-based Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre.

The Miracle-Gro’wers exhibit will invite show visitors to learn about the therapeutic benefits of horticulture, the rehabilitative role it plays at The Clink Charity’s prisoner training gardens and the valuable support it offers HighGround’s service leavers, reservists and veterans.

The Clink Gardens at HMP Send, Surrey was the first venture into a women’s prison for The Clink Charity. The project gives women prisoners the opportunity to gain practical experience and nationally recognised City & Guilds NVQs in horticulture. The most vital part of the programme is at the point of the graduate ‘going through the gate’ as they are released from prison and reintegrate back into society. The Clink’s dedicated support workers assist the women in rebuilding their relationships with family and friends and securing meaningful employment as part of the charity’s mission to reduce UK reoffending rates.

The prisoners working at The Clink Gardens grow, cultivate and harvest crops and rear free range organically-fed chickens for eggs as part of their training. Seasonal fruits, speciality and heritage vegetables and salad items are transported to The Clink Restaurants at HMP High Down, also in Surrey, and HMP Brixton in London, where they are used to create fresh, seasonal dishes, prepared by the male prisoners undergoing training and work experience to become chefs and waiters.

Gary Gates, head gardener of The Clink Gardens at HMP Send, commented on his involvement with the world-renowned show: “We’re delighted to be joining HighGround and Miracle Gro at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show to showcase just how beneficial horticultural therapy can be in a rehabilitative sense. Welcoming 157,000 visitors through its gates each year, the show is the perfect platform and opportunity for us to showcase the work of both The Clink Charity and The Clink Gardens as an individual training project that is making a genuine difference to the lives of prisoners every day, and in turn making society a safer place.”

Also supporting this year’s Miracle Gro exhibit is The Worshipful Company of Glovers who are generously donating gloves to the planting team.