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A Forest of Calm comes to BBC Gardeners World Spring Fair at Beaulieu

A Forest of Calm comes to BBC Gardeners World Spring Fair at Beaulieu


A beautiful garden ‘A Forest of Calm’ led by The Beardy Gardener and co-created with a group of New Forest home-educated young people will be a feature garden at the BBC Gardener’s World Spring Fair at Beaulieu next week (3-5 May). 

Thanks to National Lottery players, A Forest of Calm seeks to capture the beauty of the New Forest National Park and is part-funded by the National Park Authority’s YouCAN youth for climate and nature scheme, with New Forest District Council and Culture In Common.

The garden has been created using the ideas and experiences of the Broadleaf Home Ed Co-op from across the New Forest that meets at Bramshaw Village Hall. Following its showcase at the BBC Gardener’s World Spring Fair, the young people will help to install it permanently at Bramshaw Village Hall for visitors and users to enjoy. 

Beyond our back gardens there are incredible natural landscapes waiting for us to escape into, forests of calm that can inspire, restore and help us heal. 

With mental illness accounting for 23 per cent of all ill-health in England, our national parks can play an important role in helping to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the nation. Adults from the Solent MIND group in Hythe have also been consulted on the garden design and Hythe Men’s Shed has been involved in creating some of the garden furniture. 

The garden features a native woodland edge, a place of enjoyment and adventure, which opens out onto the iconic heathland landscape that humans and animals share together, including the famous New Forest pony.

A Watercolour illustration of the garden design by artist Alexandra Froggratt.

Leigh Johnstone, aka ‘The Beardy Gardener’, is a theatre director turned gardener and award-winning garden designer who rediscovered his passion for plants during the Covid-19 pandemic. He is popular on social media and an active mental health campaigner, using his past struggles to advocate for the power of gardening to improve wellbeing. Leigh will be assisted by Lily Clarke.

Leigh Johnstone said: ‘I am absolutely thrilled to be working on this project; one that means so much to me both as a local resident and a frequent user of the New Forest National Park. I have designed this garden, alongside local people, to reflect how being outdoors and immersing ourselves in nature, that is often just on our doorsteps, can be a great way to support our mental health and wellbeing. For someone who suffers from poor mental health, creating spaces that encourage people to connect with plants and the natural world is so important.

‘I hope that the garden will provide inspiration, joy, and inspire even more people to get outside.’

Willow artist and sculptor Jacqueline Rolls created a life-size sculpture of a New Forest pony that will be a main feature of the garden and ran several sessions with the home educated young people at Bramshaw Village Hall, teaching them willow weaving techniques to create sections of the pony.  

About YouCAN

Thanks to National Lottery players, the New Forest National Park Authority has received a £1.2 million Climate Action Fund grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK, to empower young people aged 11 to 25 to drive change in their communities to tackle the climate and nature emergencies.

Activities, which will take place across urban, coastal, rural, and freshwater spaces, will include volunteering opportunities, junior ranger programmes, nature improvements, and internships. The funding is being used to bring together local partner organisations and connect different sectors, creating exciting opportunities with young people and giving everyone the chance to be involved, share experiences, and learn from each other.

This £1.2m National Lottery grant, with match funding from partner organisations, represents a £1.4m investment into the area.


  • Watercolour illustration of the garden design by artist Alexandra Froggratt.
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