A Growing Relationship

Published on 01 July 2010
Source: Arthritis Today

John Hinde and wife Ann in their garden on the Wirral

NGS Gardens Open for Charity (The National Gardens Scheme) has chosen Arthritis Research UK as its charity of the year for 2010. Keen gardener, arthritis sufferer and NGS trustee John Hinde explains how gardening gave him a new lease of life. 

When arthritis struck John Hinde he found his salvation in gardening. A 25-year-long battle with severe reactive arthritis meant the formerly fit squash and tennis playing runner had to turn to the gentler but equally satisfying pleasures of tending his half acre garden with wife Ann.

Eight years ago the couple opened their garden in the suburb of Gayton on the Wirral to the paying public on behalf of the NGS Gardens Open for Charity for the first time. Since then John joined the NGS as first a volunteer and then a trustee, keen to spread the message that gardens can provide effective therapy for people with both physical and mental disabilities, and played a key role in selecting Arthritis Research UK as one of NGS’s charities of the year.

A former managing director of a technical services company, now aged 66, John had always been interested in gardening but turned to it in earnest when the couple moved to their present home, Maylands, with its half acre plot, in 1998.

“Fifty years earlier it had been a wonderful garden but it had become very overgrown,” says John. “So we got stuck in. For me, as someone with arthritis, the great thing about gardening is that you can do it at your own pace; you can do a bit of pruning, a bit of planting, and digging, you can always vary your activities and if you get tired you can sit down. So even though I was no longer sporty I maintained my weight and a reasonable level of fitness.”

Earlier this year, however, John’s arthritic hip became so painful that he had to have it replaced. The operation was a complete success, and although he had to get someone in to keep the garden up to scratch for six weeks, he made a speedy recovery and was soon able to pick up his fork and trowel again. In May the garden, complete with herbaceous border, lawns, pond and fruit trees, was opened to the public on behalf of NGS and attracted nearly 400 enthusiastic visitors.

The key to a good garden is tending it on a regular basis, doing little and often, advises John. “I’m out there if not every day, then every season, I don’t stop in winter, I’m always doing something; trimming, tidying and so on. I never stop.

"I think gardens are terrific therapy particularly for people with arthritis – both doing your own garden and visiting other people’s. It’s all about the rhythm of the seasons, and bringing people back to what’s important.”

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK adds:

“Gardening is very important to lots of our supporters, so there’s a real synergy between our charity and the NGS. Our supporters can have an enjoyable day out visiting one of the many open gardens near to them – knowing that we will benefit as a direct result.”

  • More than 3,700 gardens are open on behalf of NGS in 2010.
  • In 2009 the NGS donated £2.5m to charity
  • Over 2,500 of the gardens opening for the NGS provide tea and cakes!

To find out more about NGS including the NGS open garden nearest to where you live go to www.ngs.org.uk Look out for free County Booklets in tourist offices and garden centres or buy a copy of the NGS Yellow Book, from www.ngs.org.uk or call 01483 211535 or available from all good bookshops.

For more information on gardening and arthritis you can read our new booklet online (PDF version): Gardening and arthritis

Alternatively please call 0300 790 0400 or email us at enquiries@arthritisresearchuk.org for a free paper version.