Muddy Fork, Retford’s Gardening for Wellbeing charity based at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve, managed, against the odds, to celebrate World Mental Health Day in October. Although hopes that groups might start running again have been dashed by the arrival of the second national lockdown, activity in the garden and beyond by volunteers and trustees has continued to showcase the project in the wider community.
A remarkable initiative by a Muddy Fork volunteer, the ’25 press-ups challenge’, fired the imagination of many local businesses, with their employees’ efforts (some of them quite hilarious) captured for posterity on video. The landlady of the White Lion in Retford then ran with the idea, offering to host a WMHD event on 10th October.
Although this event was relatively low-key due to short notice, given the prevailing social distancing requirements this was probably a good thing. It was well supported however by White Lion regulars and many connected with Muddy Fork, including volunteers and participants past and present and friends and relatives of now deceased participants, some of whom paid touching tribute to the significance of the project in their loved ones’ lives. Members of a mental health group also turned up.
The video was showing at one end of the large room provided, with many contributions including introductions promoting awareness of mental health issues and / or Muddy Fork. At the other end was a sales table with Muddy Fork fresh produce, honey, chutney and jelly, while volunteers circulated to talk to members of the public about the work of the organisation and to sell raffle tickets for the many wonderful prizes donated by participating businesses. The White Lion generously provided not only the space but also free breakfasts and hot drinks, in return for donations to Muddy Fork, and offered to continue to sell raffle tickets and provide a home for Muddy Fork posters and leaflets.
This event was valuable in so many ways – taking mental health issues out into the community, providing a safe and comfortable environment for Muddy Fork participants to engage with others, bringing in welcome income from sales, donations and the raffle. But perhaps just as important was bringing people together for a common cause, at a time when social interaction was restricted (and it has now been even further constrained). We have needed to hold onto our shared humanity during the pandemic and this morale-boosting event has left an after-glow which will help us through the next stage and remind us that the work of Muddy Fork is both valued and needed.