What we do

Social and Therapeutic Horticulture

What is it?

Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) practitioners use gardening as a familiar hands-on activity to help individuals transform aspects of their lives. It's goal-led and the focus is on overcoming barriers to recovery.  We often work alongside other clinical services, such as counselling, psychological therapies and prescribed medication.  Clinically-evidenced outcomes for STH include reduction in anxiety, depression and feelings of stress; increased self-esteem; increased attentional capacity and cognition; improved mood and psychological wellbeing; and building a sense of connection, belonging or social inclusion. 

To read more, download a short article.

Download STH article

Does it work?

Our service users (known as Gardeners at Bridewell) come to us via organisations in the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership and leave after periods lasting from a few months to a couple of years, usually to take up voluntary or paid positions in a wide range of businesses and organisations.   Gardeners have gone on to such jobs as garden centre assistants, self-employed gardening, apprenticeships in engineering, temporary agency driving, factory work, voluntary work and other skilled and non-skilled jobs.  We provide help and guidance to our Gardeners as they begin to think about moving on and support them in their transition. 

In 2016 13% of Gardeners moved into paid work, 14% into meaningful voluntary posts or work placements and 29% began a training programme.  Given that many people who come to Bridewell may have never worked before, or have been out of employment for extended periods, this represents a signficant achievement.

Recently we asked a qualified professional to independently analyse Gardeners' feedback forms covering 2013-2016. Overall the results of the preliminary analysis were extremely positive. People highlighted the enormous gains they had made in self-confidence and the exceptional levels of support from the team of staff and volunteers. Gardeners particularly appreciated the opportunity to work in a team alongside people with similar experiences and develop friendships and a sense of belonging. Many identified the value of being in the peaceful garden itself as an important factor in their recovery.

What we do
What we do

A day at Bridewell

  • 9.00 Staff and volunteers arrive to feed the chickens, light the wood burner in the tea room and put the kettles on
  • Staff meeting.  Tasks for the day dicussed and written up
  • 9.30 Gardeners begin to arrive 
  • 9.50 Our minibus picks up Gardeners in central Witney 
  • 10.00 The minibus arrives back
  • 10.15 Morning meeting in the tearoom.  Gardeners decide which tasks they’d like to work on
  • 10.30 Work begins
  • 12.30 Lunch.  Packed lunches eaten in the garden in summer or in the tearoom when it’s cold or wet
  • 1.15 Brief meeting for Gardeners to choose afternoon work. Health walk; a brisk, sociable stroll around the vineyard
  • 1.30 Work begins
  • 3.00 Work finishes, areas tidied or cleaned and tools put away. Gardeners leave taking the minibus or with their own transport
  • 3.30 Staff team meeting 
  • 4.00 Staff and volunteers put the chickens away, water plants, complete any admin tasks
  • 4.30 Bridewell closes for the day


“I have come to realise that being active is very important to my recovery process”