“Established in 2006 by Lucy Scurfield, Strong Roots describes itself as a therapeutic garden project. It is, in essence, a piece of ground in Norwich where people can meet with others for personal development, belonging, companionship and delight in the shared task of cultivation.
Strong Roots can also be seen as a co-operative inquiry process focused on the personal development task to ‘let yourself grow’. What counts as personal development is left to the discretion of the participants. It can range from doing nothing, solitary engagement with the earth and shared gardening tasks to group conversations and sharing, with the option of more intensive one-to-one sessions. All, however, are based on the experience of gardening and cultivation – a rich metaphor for care, nourishment and growth.”
Strong Roots’ facilities are modest: a composting toilet, wooden benches, a summerhouse and gardening tools and supplies. The site includes several productive fruit trees and numerous borders, some of which are for flowering plants and attracting wildlife, while others are for growing crops in rotation.
Participants tell of their experience: ‘At Strong Roots I’ve been able to find myself and grow in confidence. Since starting I have let go of habits that weren’t great and have been able to go about my life much clearer and stronger’; ‘I find small rooms claustrophobic but I feel more open in an outside space. I find it easier to talk because it is peaceful but not completely silent’; ‘I like coming to Strong Roots because it is quiet, therapeutic and makes me feel good about myself. I also like watching the butterflies and the bees fluttering among the flowers… I feel good about myself when I talk about different issues.’
Based on the supposition that, in conditions of safety and trust, people will find ways of moving towards flourishing, Strong Roots provides an accessible and flexible vehicle for personal development. Its relevance for the psyCommons proposal is twofold: it is a reminder that an appetite for such engagement can exist independently of crises, and it is a demonstration of the way in which, through power-sharing, the skills and experience of a practitioner can be valued and disbursed.”