Following our recent forced closure we thought we’d share with you a letter/email recently sent to our local MPs Mr Derek Thomas and Mr George Eustice…
I thank you for reading this email at what is unquestionably an extremely busy time for you and I don’t plan to take up anymore of your time than is absolutely necessary so I will get straight to the point.
I have been the owner of a local independent growing retail nursery and garden centre for 44 years and on Tuesday 24th March was forced to shut my gates to the public following the implementation of the Government’s new lockdown measures, which excluded gardening related goods from its “essentials” remit.
While totally on board with the lockdown, the Government’s plan to social distance, self-isolate as required and reduce unnecessary movement to tackle the impact of COVID-19, I do question the thought process behind what is deemed “essential” retail.
For many of the most vulnerable people in our communities, currently enduring self-isolation for at least 12 weeks for their own safety, gardening is the only remaining therapeutic activity that they can partake in while breathing fresh air into their lungs. It has been proven that the mental wellbeing of individuals can be hugely improved when they ‘use’ their gardens. Gardening reduces stress, improves mood, and can result in a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety. At a time when psychological wellbeing is at the forefront of everybody’s mind, it makes little sense to deprive the public of goods that have been proven can be “essential” for good mental health across all age groups and all sectors of society.
Gardens provide a constant, a safe space in a world now so unfamiliar to us all, and while plants and seeds and bulbs may not be “essential” for survival I believe their benefits are at least on a par with the “essential” goods supplied by a bicycle shop, off-license or hardware store, currently permitted to remain open. As a local business we are committed to serving our local communities, and since we announced our closure have seen a constant stream of comments and remarks from our followers on social media desperate to find a way to access our goods and there is an overriding feeling that people want to feel productive in their gardens at a time when little else allows them to feel productive.
As you may be aware, a very influential figurehead and spokesman for the industry, Alan Titchmarsh is also backing garden centres to re-open as “essential retail”, and so this clearly isn’t the view of a single garden centre owner, but the industry as a whole. Clearly there was a glimmer of this thinking in Ireland too, after the initial lockdown, when garden centres were permitted to remain open as essential retail, until restrictions were tightened further still.
When the time comes to review the restrictions and consider any areas where these can be relaxed, I make a plea – please don’t overlook the value that nursery and garden centre – largely ‘open air’ – retail can offer to public mental (and physical) health. It is possible to remain sensitive to the utmost priority, public safety, while still supplying the same public with the potential to garden and access whatever they require to carry out this form of therapy, in their own ‘safe space’.
Thank you for your time.
Trevena Cross Owner