A community garden for military veterans is being created near the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone.

The garden will be built at the Gordon Messenger Centre (GMC), which is opposite the CTC, by 130 volunteers over seven days this month, starting on Tuesday, July 16.

The GMC is dedicated to the wellbeing of tri-service Armed Forces personnel and veterans, and their families. The creation of a much-needed therapeutic garden for local and visiting veterans and their families is the first project of its kind in the UK.

The build is being sponsored by SSAFA Devon, the Armed Forces Charity, thanks to a generous legacy gift by former SSAFA Devon volunteer, June Best in 2022. In recognition of that, the new green space will be named The GMC June Best Sanctuary Garden. Further sponsorship has come from RMA, the Royal Marines Charity.

The project has been designed by, and will be delivered by, international community development company Splash Projects, which has its HQ in Exmouth. The designers have worked closely with a committee of veterans to create a multi-functional, wheelchair accessible space involving sensory elements, including a fire area and a water feature, a growing garden, and plenty of seating. 

To help keep the costs to the charities down, the team are appealing for donations of garden tools and equipment, outdoor furniture, garden art/sculptures and other items to support the project.

(Image: Splash Community Projects)

Military veteran Geoff Jones, 61, who volunteers at the GMC, believes the new garden will have huge benefits for former service personnel. He was forced to leave the RAF in 1986 after a traumatic incident while he was serving in Cyprus, which left him with chronic complex PTSD. He struggled for years before receiving the support he needed from the Armed Forces Hub in Exeter and the Warrior Programme, which supports veterans making the transition to civilian life.

Geoff has been coming to the GMC since it opened in September 2021 and says it has helped him enormously, providing a safe place with a positive atmosphere. He said the garden will be a haven for others who have suffered trauma in the military.

He said: “Some people don’t like being indoors, so the garden will provide an outdoor space with relaxing areas and a place to switch off, while also being a great social area. 

“It’s going to be a place where people can do what they want in peace and quiet, planting, gardening or meditating. The water feature will be very therapeutic and the fire pit is going to be a very social space. 

“The great thing is it will be accessible to everyone and available for everyone – great for mind, body and spirit.” 

A host of businesses including Vistry Group, Champion Groundworks, Western Counties Roofing, Fenster, Jewson Exeter, MJL Contractors, Steve Hoskins Construction and CJL Construction have already pledged their support to enable the creation of the garden. 

Local businesses who would like to be involved should email Lisa-Joy GMC Manager, gmc-gordonmessengercentre@outlook.com