Gardening Against the Odds Update – July 13th


Where would we have all been without gardening during the lockdown? It’s been keeping spirits up and with extra time on their hands and some sparkling weather, quite a lot of new gardeners have taken up their tools for the first time. We’ve been featuring stories on our dedicated   Gardening Against The Odds Facebook and Instagram pages. Here are a few of them.



We’ve just heard about the brilliant Burials in Bloom at St Mary’s Church,Walthamstow.  It’s first as far as we know and a great example of Green Health.

Tim Hewitt came up with the idea for Burials in Bloom a few years ago to get help to look after the large and overgrown churchyard of the 12th century church of St Mary’s Walthamstow, where he’s the gardener.

It was quietly successful with members of the congregation and wider community adopting a grave but in the lockdown, it’s “gone crazy” according to Tim.

Thirty five graves are now being tended by people ranging from four to 70 which include novices as well as experienced gardeners. Some have a family connection, or have taken on a grave to cope with a personal loss. Some have often walked past the church but have never visited until now. All are glad to have a positive, healthy, outdoor activity and St Mary’s is very much at the heart of Walthamstow community life in the lockdown of 2020, which is sure to go on beyond these strange times.

St Mary’s has been associated with many notable people throughout its history and has seen many changes over the centuries. The 19th century artist William Morris was baptised there. Diarist Samuel Peyps used to visit friends near the church in the 1700s and once attended a service he found so boring that he pulled out a pocket-sized book of Latin plays to read instead.


Burials in Bloom

Burials in Bloom at St Mary’s Church Walthamstow



Painter Florence Naylor-Leyland and her sister Elsie Houston have moved to the family home in Shropshire during lockdown where both have discovered their inner gardener – to the point of obsession.

Elsie, who works as an account manager for WBA (Walgreens Boots Alliance) global brands, was meant to move to Hong Kong in January. Thwarted by riots there and now COVID19 everywhere she has got into veg gardening, growing everything from seed, assisted by the magnificent Sharka.

Florence has become focused on flowers “I fell deeper down the gardening rabbit hole. I couldn’t really think or talk about anything else. I’m so hooked. I’ve experienced how happy gardening makes me and how rewarding and inspiring it is so can’t really stop”.


Elsie Houston and Sharka

Elsie Houston and Sharka


Florence Naylor-Leyland

Florence Naylor-Leyland



The bees in eight hives on the roof of Manchester Cathedral, which are part of the Volition Community, have been busy during lockdown, although the gardeners who tend for the cathedral grounds have had to pause.

Beekeeper Cath Charnock explains, “June is usually a busy month for Volition. We are still in lockdown, but the Volition bees carry on as usual. No lockdown for them. Neither are they thinking about social distancing as they overcrowd their hives getting ready to swarm.”

The Volition Community at Manchester Cathedral won one of the first Green Health Awards, which The Conservation Foundation organised with the Church Times, the Guild of Health and St Raphael and the Church of England.

The award celebrated examples of how church space can be used to provide therapeutic gardening opportunities for members of their local communities.

Volition, set up in 2012, is a fantastic project which helps unemployed people find a way back to work through a volunteer programme which gives them employability skills, including beekeeping, gardening and cookery. Volition has links with organisations around the city who offer work experience, mentoring and job opportunities.


Bee hives on the roof of Manchester Cathedral

Bee hives on the roof of Manchester Cathedral


The beautiful garden at Manchester Cathedral

The beautiful garden at Manchester Cathedral


We will continue to share some of the stories from time to time here on the news pages of the website but for anyone wanting to follow along in real time please come and check out for loads more uplifting stories and great advice. Don’t forget you can also contact us on the facebook page or email us at to share your stories and tips too. We look forward to hearing from you.