End of Yarl’s Wood Gardening Scheme

It is with great sadness that yesterday I wrote to Serco to withdraw Thyme 2 Grow’s offer to set up a Gardening Scheme at Yarl’s Wood under the current arrangements.

When I launched the crowdfunding campaign in March this year I initially hoped to start gardening in April, or May at the latest. It then slipped to June, then that start of July and then the end of July. Given that I need a couple of weeks to set up and have my own holiday booked this postponed the realistic start until the start of September. Once it looked like this too may slip I had to call it a day.

I initially agreed to give my time on a voluntary basis in order to get the scheme up and running and to collect valuable feedback which would have strengthened grant applications.

To have wasted most of the growing season and not have started this process has been a serious blow and one that I cannot afford. In addition, while I remain convinced that the scheme would have been popular, to start from scratch and gain momentum over winter is an additional risk.

I don’t think it helps to assign blame. I can’t speak for the organisation as a whole, but know that all the individuals that I have met from Serco have been very supportive of the scheme and we agree on the benefits it can offer. They are very busy and have had a number of other priorities over the summer which means that this opportunity has been missed.

When I withdrew the offer I did say I would ask funders if I could hold all unspent funds until next spring in case Serco come back to me with a new offer – this time it will require some funding from them! If you have contributed to the scheme, please can you let me know if you agree to this? I don’t really think I expect to hear form Serco, in which case I will contact all funder to discuss either the return of unspent funds or their transfer, together with all tools and equipment, to a similar scheme. For now Thyme 2 Grow will press ahead with the community garden and see where that leads.

Over the last few days I have spent a lot of time in the garden just watching things grow. Having re-housed so many Yarl’s Wood plants, the borders seem full of wasted opportunity – although it is some relief to know that the plants would have flourished! At the end of the day, I have spent the past 19 months trying to set up a scheme that should not really be needed in the first place. Thyme 2 Grow is a non-political organisation, but it does not even feel that controversial to point out that the Home Office’s system of indefinite detention is broken and in urgent need of reform. Having met so many detainees, while this broken system still exits I will be sorry not to be able to use gardening to make life a little more tolerable, a little more beautiful, a little more hopeful. Thank you to everyone who shared this dream.