When the English poet Alfred Austin spoke of gardening he said, “hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.” And how right he was. For those fortunate enough to have gardens, it is a busy time of year as the lawn mower is back out and the spring flowers are fading in turn for the bright colours of summer.

For those that don’t have gardens, we are lucky to have lots of beautiful places that we can visit to view some spectacular displays of nature. Whether it’s the beautiful blossom in the Old Town Gardens, the apple trees at Stanton Park or just the wild flower meadows in North Swindon; we are not short of opportunities to get out and enjoy the never-ending wonders that the outdoors can bring.

We are also fortunate to have local allotments to enjoy gardening and I know that these are quite rightly an integral part of new developments. At the weekend I was delighted to attend an open event at the Tadpole Farm allotments hosted by the fantastic Tadpole Garden Village In Bloom volunteer group. I officially opened their new community greenhouse which is a brilliant addition to the allotments and the event provided an opportunity to raise some money for some very worthy causes including the MND Association and of course TGV in bloom.

The event really reminded me of the importance of being in the garden particularly in terms of our mental health. In Swindon we recognise this which is why we also have the wonderful Twigs garden at Cheney Manor as well as the Every Clouds tearoom & garden at Stanton Park. Both of these fantastic charities do so much to provide a tranquil, outdoor space for those struggling with their mental health. As we come out of the dark tunnel of this pandemic it is vital that we get back to supporting these organisations, including the Olive Tree Café which is linked to Twigs.

The proactive volunteers who form the TGV in Bloom are going to embark on some mental health first aid so that they can also be fully utilised to support good mental health and I will be fully supporting them along the way. They are also hoping to use the allotments to teach local youngsters about growing flowers and plants but also fruit and veg - something made possible by the new greenhouse. This is so important in helping the next generation to see where their food comes from and hopefully encourage healthy eating. The volunteers are a real credit to their community and it’s so great to see a relatively new development getting together and creating such positivity and providing help to others.

Finally I wanted to say a big good luck to all the candidates who find out the results of the local elections today. Whilst there has been plenty of disagreement on issues, irrespective of political party they will have all worked hard to earn each and every vote. I spent 10 happy years as a councillor on SBC and know just what an important role our councillors play in supporting residents and helping those in need.