Olivia Gawthrop is the widow (Olivia re-married two years ago) of Graham Gawthrop, who served in the Royal Navy as Acting Sub Lt. They met and married in the Philippines (Olivia’s place of birth) and have two children who are both now young adults. When Olivia’s son was struggling to cope during the coronavirus crisis, she turned to the support of the OABF and the power of gardening to get them through.



The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent periods of lockdown created an extraordinary set of circumstances that left many people trying to cope with issues surrounding isolation, depression and mental health.

During lockdown, Olivia’s youngest son Simon, who has disabilities, was becoming increasingly unsettled and depressed as he was unable to go out and access the vital social support of close family and friends.

A helping hand from OABF

To keep Simon occupied, and provide a focus, Olivia decided to apply for an allotment. Although in high demand, she was delighted to succeed in her application, and they were allocated an overgrown and untamed plot with an old rotting shed. Whilst they were able to provide the love and care the allotment would need to bring it back to life, the old shed could not be rescued in the same way and would need replacing to make the area safe.

Olivia contacted her Case Manager, Leona Goulbourne, at the OABF to ask for help. Working in partnership with The Seafarers Charity, the OABF were able to help Olivia purchase a new shed.

Getting to work

With funds for the shed on the way, Olivia and Simon were able to get to work on their allotment, clearing the rubbish, cutting back the overgrown brambles and weeds and preparing the ground for planting.

Starting from scratch, they planted from seed and grew some items at home on their windowsill. They created three plots in total and filled them with an array of vegetables and flowers including potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflowers, berries, lavender, and lilies.

Gardening power

Their OABF Case Manager kept in touch with the family to follow their developments and offer support where needed, but the therapeutic benefits of Olivia’s gardening project were already evident.

The allotment has not only provided Simon with a much-needed outlet during the pandemic, but it has become such an important part of his life, he visits every single day. The new shed has become an extension of their home and the family will often spend a whole day down there enjoying being closer to nature and wildlife.

The physical and mental health benefits of gardening are well known but their allotment has also brought a whole host of new learning experiences, not to mention new friends and a community of enthusiastic gardeners. This once neglected allotment plot is now much loved and bursting with life.

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