Monday, January 13, 2020

RESEARCH reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies. What you are seeing, hearing or experiencing at any moment not only changes your mood but how your nervous, endocrine and immune systems work. The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, sad or helpless. This in turn elevates your blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A pleasing environment reverses that.

The pioneering BEAM service in Bagenalstown has recognised this to great success and with some help from Carlow County Development Partnership has created something quite special.

The development partnership, as part of its community wellbeing campaign, actively promotes therapeutic horticulture as part of its services to communities.

CEO Mary Lawlor said: “Embracing nature and horticulture is well proven to help people to mix socially, improve their communication and thinking skills, learn practical skills and give them the confidence to become more independent.”

John Murphy, director of BEAM Services, a dynamic centre supporting adults with special needs, was a lone champion for many years when it came to promoting the benefits of horticulture in community settings such as BEAM. Credit goes to John for his persistence over the years in imagining and sharing his vision to establish BEAM as a destination on the Carlow Garden Trail as well as an award-winning garden experience for members.

Niamh Murphy, Rural Social Scheme supervisor, with RSS worker Séan Whelan

The BEAM Gardens are a wonderful and unique series of ten interconnecting units, namely Dinn Righ, Druids’ Wood, Potager Garden, Monastic Courtyard, Convent Garden, Reflective Garden, Sli an Chroi, Water Garden, Co-operation Garden and the French Garden. All of them bring life to the history, folklore and heritage of the beautiful Barrow Valley, where BEAM services is located.

John is keen to point out that when it came to developing the gardens, they had two key objectives. “Firstly, we wanted to provide a healthy and therapeutic working environment for the members attending the BEAM Centre, and secondly to develop a beautiful water-fronted site into a major tourism-driven initiative,” he said.

Designed in-house by John, the finished design draws inspiration from local history, architecture and mythology. And the attention to detail is breathtaking ‒ well worth a visit, and clearly a labour of love for John. Little wonder then that John unashamedly pursued Carlow County Development Partnership to secure a Rural Social Scheme worker to join the team at BEAM to sensitively develop and maintain the garden. Rural Social Scheme workers are a highly skilled and much sought after group from the local farming community and without exception have an innate understanding of gardening and the local environment.

“We were meant to be,” laughed Seán Whelan, who is the type of Rural Social Scheme worker that John wanted for BEAM.

“When I came to BEAM, I simply fell in love with the place. BEAM provides such an important and specialised service to adults with special needs in such a beautiful community setting. Every day I come into the place, I feel so inspired ‒ there’s nothing like it.”

Seán came to work in BEAM ten years ago and is eager to point out that it has enabled him to grow as a person, too.

“When you see what goes on here,” he said, “you can’t but be humbled and inspired. Somehow, some way, the members with the support of the team have developed gardens which not only provide an engaging and healthy environment to work and relax in but they welcome the public, too. And here I am in the middle of it all!”

He added: “I find it very easy to strike up a friendship with the members and I really enjoy working with them. I get a great kick out of seeing them learn through gardening and I really enjoy teaching them, too ‒ showing them new plants and trees is always a winner.”

And so, there it is … the theory in action, and readily found in the heart of Bagenalstown, where therapeutic horticulture is underpinning a service for cognitive, physical, social, emotional and recreational benefits and thereby improving the person’s body, mind and spirit. We could all do with some more of that.

And while John and Seán are staying tight-lipped about the future plans at BEAM, Mary Lawlor revealed that plans are in the pipeline to enhance the gardening and outdoor experience in Bagenalstown for locals and visitors. Beyond that, she would say no more. BEAM Services can be contacted on 059 9723504. The phone number for Carlow County Development Partnership CLG and Rural Social Scheme is 059 97207

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