1103. Paul Pulford
Paul Pulford, from London, co-founded ‘Grounded Ecotherapy’, a volunteer-led scheme that provides therapy and skills through gardening for people with experience of substance misuse, mental health difficulties and homelessness.
Paul, a former heroin and alcohol addict, spent seven years living on the street before an outreach worker persuaded him to move into a hostel and draw on his interest in nature to develop new skills. To relax, he started building a garden at the hostel, and encouraged other people to participate. With support from ‘Providence Row Housing Association’, who oversee the project, Paul created the group ‘Grounded Ecotherapy’ in 2005 to provide members with skills in horticulture, maintenance and gardening, which not only provides therapy for those in the process of recovery, but can be used to secure full-time employment. The group were invited by Eden Project to work on a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2009, winning an RHS Silver Medal, and to create the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Centre for the London Southbank Centre’s 60th anniversary in 2011, which they continue to maintain.
In a personal letter to Paul, Prime Minister Theresa May said:
“Your work founding ‘Grounded Ecotherapy’ is making a real difference for people who have experienced substance misuse, mental ill health and homelessness. By drawing on your own experiences of recovery, you have demonstrated the extraordinary benefits gardening can have for therapy and personal development, and should feel very proud of your achievements in creating award-winning gardens at Chelsea Flower Show and the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden at London Southbank Centre.”
“I am thrilled to bits. It is a real honour and it is nice to be recognised for all the hard work that has been achieved with ‘Grounded Ecotherapy’.”