Introducing Nicola

Hi! I am the GAP Project Coordinator at Dorset Mind – a support group for community members experiencing mental health issues. I get to share the benefits of being outside and taking part in gardening activities with the local community. The things I enjoy most about working on the GAP Project include connecting people with nature, spending time outside, learning new skills and working with wonderful volunteers and community members.

Tell us more about the GAP project…

The sessions run all year and the sort of activities you can expect include:

• Sowing seeds and planting fruit and vegetables
• Digging, weeding and pruning
• Planning new spaces
• Upcycling pallets into furniture
• Creating wildlife habitats

The aim of the GAP Project is to improve mental wellbeing and quality of life of participants through eco-therapy. Participants will be supported to build self-confidence, self-esteem and resilience whilst connecting with nature and others. Anyone with mild to moderate mental health and wellbeing challenges can access the service and benefit from taking part in activities in a peer-supported environment.

Being outside and spending time in nature can:

• Improve your mood, reduce stress/anger.
• Help you take time-out and feel relaxed.
• Improve your physical health.
• Improve your confidence and self-esteem.
• Help you make new connections.

The GAP Project can benefit the local community by:

• Helping participants
• Providing volunteering opportunities
• Growing produce to benefit the local community

We have an established GAP Project in Dorchester and are looking to expand to other parts of Dorset to allow more communities to benefit.

What can we do in the garden?

Have you ever had a go at sowing your own seeds at home? Or thought about growing your own fruit and vegetables? If not then don’t worry, you don’t need to have any experience or extensive gardening knowledge to do so! Planting and nurturing your own seeds to then watch them grow and bloom is a wonderful way to focus on something positive and be mindful. These gardening-based activities can really help to enhance your wellbeing.

If you want to have a go at planting your own produce at home, below are some ideas to get started with:

– Buy a small bag of seed potatoes, place in an egg carton and put on the windowsill until Easter, and then watch as the shoots appear!
– You can then plant them in soil in mid- April.

Mint and peas
– Cut empty toilet rolls tubes in half.
– Place in a tray or on a plate and add some compost.
– Water and sprinkle on a few mint seeds.
– For the peas, use your finger to create a little well and place the pea in each tube and cover over.
– Place in a sunny place and you can cover the mint with a clear recyclable plastic bag on the windowsill.
– Nurture the seeds by watering every few days and watch as the seedling appear.

Created at the GAP Project. Photo by Nicola Whitehead.

Who is Dorset Mind?

Dorset Mind is a local mental health charity that educates, challenges mental health stigma and inequality and promotes recovery. There are a variety of support options available through Dorset Mind, including talking and activity wellbeing groups, adult counselling, young people’s counselling and the befriending service.

For more information

To find out more about Dorset Mind and the services available, visit their website For further information about the GAP Project, or to attend a gardening session please email: