Our new award! (Altogether now – “oooh!”)

Yes, on Thursday 22nd March we were let out for the evening. Clairelouise, Sarah, James and Sharon (don’t we scrub up well?) put on their gladrags and attended the Cumbria Life Food and Drink Awards at Kendal College. The food was incredible – and all cooked and served by the catering/hospitality students. Our host for the proceedings was Jay Rayner, he of BBC’s The One Show, restaurant critic and all-round raconteur. AND WE WON AN AWARD!!! Jay presented us with the Food and Farming 2018 award for our work with therapeutic horticulture and mega-salad production. Didn’t we do well?



Jay, CL, Sharon, Sarah and James. Looking good team!


My 15 minutes of fame!

Well, it may not be 15 minutes all in one go, but I’m hoping that I’ll use some of it over this weekend.

Earlier today I was feeling very nervous as I sat in a service station waiting for a phone call from Radio Cumbria. Thankfully it was pre-recorded so I’m hoping that they’ll make me sound fantastic – we all know that Growing Well is already fantastic don’t we?!

I’ll have the radio on during Saturday and Sunday mornings, while I’m packing & travelling, to hear the on the hour bulletins – I think I’m looking forward to hearing me, let me know what you think…

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I’ll be talking & walking up Kilimanjaro!

Part of my reason for summiting Kili is to raise money for Growing Well, but it’s not the only reason. Being as my training is still going abysmally, thanks to the thickest & strongest tendon in my body (top trivia fact there), then I’ll tell you the other reason…

…Raising awareness…. of the fact that 1 in 4 people will be affected directly by mental health problems. The 2nd of February was “Time to Talk” day and as part of the initiative the organisation Time to Change created some little flyers (that’s what the picture is!) to help people talk about, what for a lot of us, is a no-go area.

I have some of these little cards and I’ll be taking them out with me to act as a conversation starter as I get higher – I’m sure there will be lots of folks facing short term mountain induced mental battles as well as physical ones on the way up! Or they’ll have a friend/family member back home who would benefit from “Time to Talk” with someone.

And for those of you who are concerned that I might do too much talking – I’m taking lots of herb drops to lubricate my throat!

Only 18 days until Summit Day!

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Alison’s Kili Training – but not what you’d imagine…

You’re absolutely right, that is not a mountain but a lake! And I’m not looking my best because it was 5.7 degrees and I’d just stopped doing head down front crawl (can’t get the photographers these days). I’m doing anything that’s vaguely like going to the top of Kili – in this instance getting very cold, to try and do some training that might be useful while I’m there as my achilles tendon still isn’t very happy.

While trying to make the best of it I’m also going as fast as I can on my turbotrainer to simulate lack of oxygen. I’m not brave enough to do it outside; I don’t want to fall off and injure myself any further before I go! Here’s another photo of my foot…

On my turbotrainer

There’s one more really important thing I’ve been training though and that’s my head. Part of my mental health recovery was (and still is) all about believing in myself, and how I react when things don’t go quite how I planned. Climbing Kilimanjaro might be a bit more painful with a dodgy leg, but whatever happens I know I’m going to get as far as I am able and then have another story to remind me that This Girl Can!

To support me click here



Kili Training – all ups and downs!

Training for Kili has turned into something of a roller coaster. I’ve discovered Tabata and have been going as fast as I can up hill with my walking poles at what I would describe as a trot – definitely not a jog but faster than a walk! This has mostly been taking place at night as I do sound like I only have 1 lung and must look very pink.

So, the UPS…… Having experiences like on the picture – an evening last week when I ‘trotted’ up Gummers Howe in the fog and wind, hoping that I’d be able to remember the right direction off the top as visibility was about 5m – it definitely felt worse than it looks!

The DOWNS….. Unfortunately my niggly achilles tendon has started to flare up, with less than 3 weeks until the trip this has not made me happy! I’m doing lots of stretches and exercises but the summit day could be harder than I’d anticipated. I did discover you can buy stick on ice patches today though so they’ll be coming with me.

And another UP – look at my lovely shoes, posing next to the Gummers Howe trig point …..



Huge thanks to those who have sponsored me so far :o)



Alison’s “Summit Kilimanjaro” Adventure

Apparently I am completely crazy! For those of you who know me you’ve probably worked this out a long time ago – especially if you heard about me summiting the 2nd highest mountain in Africa in June and swimming in Grizedale Tarn in December when it was only 2 degrees, just for the love of it! Well I’ve finally decided that if I’m going to do something crazy then the least I should do is to raise some money at the same time and who else better to raise it for than Growing Well.

It would be absolutely wonderful if you (or anyone you know) were able to sponsor me, but as part of the reason for doing it is also to raise awareness of Mental Health Issues then I hope you enjoy hearing all about the journey on here.

To sponsor me then please follow the link below. This also gives you a wee potted history of why I work at Growing Well and why I think they’re so awesome.


If you’d like to contact me about my Adventure then I’ve set up an email address, it would be lovely to hear from you…. alisonsadventureemail@gmail.com

(and that’s a picture of me on Potter Fell on one of my training walks)

How Growing Well works – Staff Team Discussion October 2016

In early October the GW staff team met to reflect on how our work meets our social aims, namely developing emotional resilience, improving physical health and developing life skills.  Beren had previously written an article in the Transactional Analyst (Vol5 Issue3 Summer 2015) where he identified the environment in which GW works.  He proposed that this environment is one in which:

  1. Everyone is ok
  2. Change is possible no matter how poorly someone is
  3. Everyone is equally important
  4. Staff and participants will share decision making
  5. There is a ready supply of positive strokes
  6. ‘Game playing and drama’ will be confronted within a system of regular supervision for participants and staff

As a team, we discussed these elements; did we all agree that these were valid? What are humanistic ways of being? Are we thinking about what we’re doing? Are we engaging in reflective practice?

  1. We discussed the OK Corral (a TA concept). Transactional Analysis is a theory of human development. It aspires to describe what makes us who we are. The OK Corral is all about an individual’s perception of a situation.  We agreed to adopt the notion, ‘Everyone is ok’ and that noticing a psychological process is going on through the use of the OK Corral model.
  2. All staff agreed that change is possible no matter how poorly someone is and felt we should adopt this as a value/ descriptor of GW.
  1. All staff agreed that everyone is equally important and agreed the adoption of this value/ descriptor of GW. Discussion included: everyone has worth and value; everyone has the right to be heard; everyone has the right to have a voice; a person-centred approach is essential to meet this need and attending to people’s differing needs supports this notion.
  2. Staff and participants sharing decision making needs consideration. Future topics to discuss include: Categories (strategic / business / day-to-day decision making); How to make good communication links; how do we make decisions as staff, volunteers, in conjunction with each other? Who makes what decisions on what levels? … et al.
  1. It was discussed that positive strokes are a unit of recognition and that they are good to give and good to receive. Both conditional and unconditional statements can be positive strokes. All staff agreed that it was good to give constructive feedback and be mindful of consequences.

Conditional Stroke:

A conditional stroke is received for something you did rather than for who you are. Suppose you have just spent a considerable length of time completing a detailed report and your boss says, “Great job.” You have just been given a stroke but it was in exchange for something you did; it was conditional. (related to your ROLE)

Unconditional Stroke:

If someone tells you that you’re a nice person, an un-conditional stroke has been given for who you are instead of in exchange for what you did. Most people place a higher value on, and have a greater need for, unconditional strokes. (related to your IDENTITY)

 Psychological Stroke Counter – make a goal to increase the number of strokes that you give to people.

  1. ‘Game playing and drama’ are TA concepts that relate to the way an individual respond to a situation. This response usually adopts a childhood response in the form of: I’ve always done this; a destructive pattern that perpetuates; playing out the same scenario repeatedly; repetitious way of responding. Discussions took place around the perceived loaded terminology ‘game playing and drama’ – whilst in TA they are neutral a member of staff highlighted concerns regarding how there is room for misinterpretation if this terminology was used for GW.

The team also discussed reflection – a personal process that staff engage in, which aids the development of: confidence, emotional resilience and effective working with volunteers. We talked about the importance of building in a reflective process for all staff members; people’s opinions really matter; different types of reflection (group supervision, role supervision, line-manager supervision, volunteer supervision and personal reflection).

It has been a properly busy spring so far…

It has been a properly busy spring so far (I say spring because the lambs are bouncing, which tends to be my defining ‘it’s spring moment’ rather than the weather getting any less COLD).   We had the nod from Big Lottery and Cabinet Office a month ago, so the past few weeks has seen me running in ever decreasing circles since realising that we’ve £100k to spend on future proofing. I don’t like that phrase, but it’s a closest I can get to what the LSF money is paying for – essentially loads of (probably) trial and error over the next year or so, to test new ideas, new products and new ways of working to help as many people as possible to access mental health recovery through our support. We also aim to take as much control of our income as possible, through growing and selling as many organic items as people will buy.

Fortunately we won’t have to do it on our own, which helps me sleep at night. Sam Rayner of Lakeland is lending the formidable skills of the Lakeland team, as are Impact International, Egg Homes and Solomons Europe – as diverse a range of businesses as we could wish for, with individuals committed to creating a positive future for mental health support. The greatest value in these relationships is the knowledge, opinion and experience of people who operate in completely different environments to us, and can broaden our perspective and creativity.

So, this April I’ve created contracts for consultants, we’ve found a fantastic Catering Co-ordinator who starts next week (and on that note, had the best days interviewing in my career so far – three lovely, appointable candidates who all just ‘got’ Growing Well, all with different skills – it was a shame we couldn’t appoint all three) and we’re meeting with Sue, Unity’s Occupational Therapist this week to help us draw up a job description for our own Occupational Therapist – which is a truly monumental step forward for us! I also got voted in as the latest Chair for the Cumbria Third Sector Mental Health Provider Forum (not quite sure how that happened) but it’s cool, as we’re going to make the group faster higher stronger and all that.

On a personal note, I got marginally squiffy recently and said I’d walk the Rob Roy Way with a friend in June. 77 miles plus the first 11 miles of the West Highland Way (because of train related malarky). Anyway, my impending sense of doom has led to many supportive conversations about what other stuff Growing Well could do if I survive (or, for that matter, even if I don’t). So, we’re going to do the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, as well as another Cross Bay Walk with Cedric (cause the last one rocked). I was walking down Ingleborough a few weeks back (Training! Training!) when some footsore bloke asked me if I actually did this for fun? It just made me realise I need to inject more misery into my adventures and I hereby invite you all to join me 🙂

Grey, Wind and Rain

Looking out of my windows at home I see fields becoming ponds again-well lakes really!
This very wet and windy weather is having an effect on Growing Wells productivity and it has turned my mind to some vegetable comfort food. Cakes!
This weeks bag is mixed but mine includes Carrots and Parsnips, some had Squash -what I do know is that they all make very moist and tastily comforting cakes.
I have spent more that an hour surfing recipes online, there are some brilliant blogs where you can find great recipes for instance for organic vegan cooking which may require ingredients that if you are not vegan you will not have in your pantry of delights. What is a bonus about these blogs is the quality of the presentation, wonderfully appetising images and staged photographs  of the recipe in the making.

Here are a few you may like to escape to and if you are lucky it may have stopped raining and you can get outdoors for a walk- whilst you decide what to make for tea!




Well back to this weeks recipes I have a lovely Chocolate and Beetroot cake care of Hazel, who used to bring one in sometimes for the level 2 students, originally from Mary Berry. I have made a classic Carrot Cake From the Cranks book – which is moist carrots and tasty with a brown flour base. But  also have anothe for you here which Suesie -who was on last years course gave me from New Zealand and it is a belter! The Christmas Spiced Parsnip Cake comes  from the Green Kitchen and that is how I got distracted – looking at all those delicious images -well that bit keeps you slim -trying them out well thats another matter. Enjoy!

Nell Dale