Wreath Making – A Reflection

Standing, shivering in the Community Market Garden on a chilly December morning is both a reminder of how beautiful nature can be once the frosts start building and a stark reminder of the reality of what being homeless must be like through the coldest months of the year.  A shirt, cardigan and coat are no match for the early morning wind chill and the dampness of the air but, on a day like this, they are luxuries for which I am undoubtedly grateful.

As of the first of the month, New Hope has partnered with the council and local churches to ensure that there are beds available during these difficult times to give safety, warmth and some hot food and drink for those facing a night outside. A camp bed and a sleeping bag may not sound like much but the alternative is far worse to both the mental and physical health of anyone caught outside.

Back to the garden… and to the purpose of this post…

Today was wreath making day, one of two courses where residents from all of New Hope’s accommodations (and those in contact with our Tenancy Sustainment Team) could come and learn to make their own Christmas wreath.

I’ve never made a wreath before – it’s just a circle of…I’m going to say wire…maybe, with bits of holly and branches and ribbons twisted into it. I was half right. Wire is important.

The first task undertaken by myself and the other participants was to find the right kind of branches on one of the enormous, deep green trees of holly found toward the rear of the garden. Ian, our garden supervisor, explained the importance of the right width of branch and the kind of flexibility we should be seeking before handing us secateurs. I chose badly, the other participants did not. Once back in the warmth of the workshop we set about creating our frame of holly by creating a triangle of three branches and loosely winding the joins with wire. Mine broke and had to be hastily coaxed back into position with additional wire and an awful lot of hope.

The garden workshop is a consistently vibrant and busy environment – it’s the home of many sessions, both creative and wellbeing; a meeting place for staff, volunteers and visitors; a space where a free choice of activities can be undertaken by New Hope residents; and it is, of course, the home of the all-important tea and coffee (and, consequently, conversation). While many were involved in the handcrafting of wreaths, some visitors were hard at work on other projects, in this case, building a structure to protect the newly planted fruit crops from the garden’s other inhabitants, and the whittling of an impressive ‘man of the forest’.

The second stage of wreath construction involves wrapping areas of the holly in additional wire for the cross-purpose of 1: giving the structure additional strength, 2: providing loose loops into which additional greenery can be hooked, and 3: (specifically so in my case) making the wreath actually round. This is a tricky business involving repeatedly getting spiked by holly while laughing along with everyone else also repeatedly getting spiked by holly. Once done however the whole group had what were genuinely beginning to look like wreaths.

Finally, and obviously the best part, is fleshing out the rings of spiky but very festive holly in whatever way we fancy. A variety of other greenery is then slotted into place with groups of red berries providing bursts of contrast between fronds of fir and loops of ivy.

Most of these wreaths will be placed of the doors of New Hope accommodations (one can be clearly seen to anyone passing the front of New Hope House), or on the doors of the flats in the Sanctuary. One would be returning to the independently rented flat of a visitor from our Tenancy Sustainment Team. That is what courses like this are about in my opinion – providing an opportunity to learn something new, or important, or transferrable, but also creating something to be proud of and that will improve the day of someone else and to bring a little extra brightness to New Hope House, or the Sanctuary, or elsewhere – to the places which are our homes.

The morning sessions in the workshop ended with an impromptu jamming session between a New Hope resident with a guitar and the garden supervisor on djembe drums to the backdrop of wooden walls, brightly coloured art and a gentle heat from the embers in the log burner.

The garden is easy enough to describe visually but it’s not so easy to capture the way it feels so, for me, it is like a having a better day (vague, I know, but I always feel better, more relaxed, and ready for the rest of the day when I leave).  I cannot speak for anyone else but I hope, really hope, that I am not alone in that. Maybe the next time there is an open day, see if you can head down and see for yourself.

Joe – Fundraising Team

NewsJoe MeehanNews