Cultivating a calmer prison environment; HMP Parc wins gardening award

Award-winning green spaces at HMP & YOI Parc are a haven for wildlife and play an important role in the training of prisoners, while positively impacting on their behaviour and morale.

For the second time since 2017, HMP & YOI Parc, which is managed by G4S, was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Windlesham Trophy for the best kept prison garden. 

HMP Parc competed alongside four other prisons which were all visited by three RHS judges to be assessed on their horticultural displays and environmental efforts, as well as how these impact the men in their care. 

RHS judge, Jon Wheatley, said: “The quality of horticulture in prisons is ever improving and much of what we’ve seen this year is of RHS gold medal standard. 

“However, what the team has achieved at HMP & YOI Parc is truly outstanding with far reaching benefits across the whole prison community, from superb training and learning opportunities to food production and improved health and wellbeing.” 

From the allotments to the wildflower borders and Japanese-style garden, every single space available within the prison has been used to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables, or create tranquil places to relax and reflect.

This has contributed to improving the environment within the prison for staff and prisoners alike, while also making the walkway to the visits hall more welcoming to visitors, and less intimidating for families with young children. 

The team of prisoners who work in the gardens learn horticultural skills from instructors, and have the possibility to gain qualifications which they can use after release. For these men, working in the gardens not only keeps them busy, but also allows them to feel trusted. Most importantly, it provides them with  the opportunity to develop new skills through work they enjoy. 

But the gardens also benefit those who work in the staff kitchen, who cook with the huge hauls of crops grown in the allotments, and those who work in the woodwork and recycling workshops, who build bird boxes and fences for the gardens, as well as composting systems, planters and propagation trays out of recycled pallets and plastic bottles.

G4S director of HMP & YOI Parc, Janet Wallsgrove, said: "This win is testament to the dedication and creativity of the prisoners and staff who work on the gardening team and will especially mean a lot to the men in our care who are working towards horticultural qualifications.

"As well as improving the environment within the prison, our gardens provide prisoners with the training, skills and confidence to pursue employment in this sector upon release."