Miles Mahoney is the co-ordinator at BCHA’s allotment in Throop, Bournemouth. He shares his passion for nature and growing plants with participants of The Growth Project and Level 1 Horticulture courses, which are free and help provide new skills and improve well-being.

“I’ve worked for BCHA for nine years after having my own landscaping business – in total I’ve been in the horticulture industry for 20 years or more.

“The allotment was set up about 11 years ago. It was the brainchild of a manager here and it was a bit of a gamble – but it turned out to be a great decision. Originally it was a way to reach out to people who might not know about the benefits of growing their own veg, and to provide meaningful activity for them.

“Now it’s much more than that and we appreciate the holistic benefits that gardening can bring. It’s very far reaching. Caring for plants can bring a sense of purpose, and it also teaches patience.

“At the allotment we run accredited courses introducing people to organic gardening. The enjoyment and reward of growing your own food is really empowering – plus it saves money.

“A lot of people who come through BCHA’s doors have slipped through the education net. When you show them the world of horticulture and they find out there are a lot of work opportunities out there it’s great. Careers in horticulture are not promoted very well and a lot of people forget it’s there as a sector.

“The Level 1 Horticulture course is a good first step on the ladder. It can give people a lot of confidence – and if nothing else it is a really rewarding hobby and offers the opportunity to taste real food, grown organically.

“Some participants go on to do Level 2 at Kingston Maurward or find career paths in horticulture, which is very rewarding.

“It’s rewarding for me as well – it’s great to be able to teach people how to propagate stem cuttings and create a garden for nothing.

“Many of our volunteers are people who stay with us after the course. It’s a sociable place and helps build confidence.

“Our volunteers take the produce home so nothing is wasted. The allotment is 2.2 acres and we grow brassicas, roots, beans, raspberries… In the polytunnel we have tomatoes, chillis, aubergines, cucumbers…

“I love inspiring people and teaching them about growing. Being outside in nature has been proven to be beneficial, but then we all knew that anyway. You can trust nature.

Miles’ piece of advice for Changemakers:

“Gardening is for everyone. You don’t even need a garden or an outside space – a windowsill will do. And caring for plants gives a rewarding sense of purpose.”