Cambridgeshire prison wins prestigious gardening award

HMP Littlehey prison celebrates the benefits that gardening brings to prison communities, including staff and visitors

The garden at HMP Littlehey prison in Cambridgeshire

The RHS and the Prison Service have awarded the Windlesham Trophy for the best-kept prison garden in England and Wales for 2023, to HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire.

What is the Windlesham Trophy?

The annual award, which was first awarded in 1983 by Lord Windlesham who was Chair of the Parole Board at the time, aims to celebrate horticultural success within prisons in England and Wales and promotes the benefits that green space have on wellbeing and rehabilitation. 

“The prison has worked towards excellence over the last three years and is a brilliant example of how horticultural landscape and food production can be used to improve health, the environment and people’s lives, as well as developing lasting educational and social outcomes in challenging social environments,” said Jon Wheatley, Chair of Judges.

Gardening for wildlife

A pond has been created at HMP Littlehey prison in Cambridgeshire

With three green areas, the focus of the gardening projects at Littlehey is to increase the biodiversity on the prison site through planting for wildlife, increasing the number of native species and growing their own food. The Market Garden contains seven polytunnels, 12 outdoor growing plots and 12 compost bays. Crops such as aubergines, chillies, and sweetcorn are among the variety of fruits and herbs grown on site that are used in the prison kitchen. One prisoner said that their highlight of working in the gardens is knowing that 90% of the salad ingredients come straight from the Market Garden. 

Within the Lakeside and Woodlands Gardens that span the entire site, extensive work has taken place in the last year to utilise wasteland areas, add wildlife ponds and grow native orchids.

“Our wildlife pond has seen many ducklings and dragonflies visit, with an explosion of ladybugs, woodlice and earthworms in the area. We now have started work on a hedgehog sanctuary, which has already seen its first resident move in, recycling pallets to create a variety of bug hotels and bird boxes. Once these are fully established, we hope to run a regular bug and plant survey to monitor our impact,” said Jenna Owen, Head of Reducing Re-offending.

Creating peace of mind and sensory stimulation

Examples of the colourful planting schemes that have been introduced at HMP Littlehey prison in CambridgeshireThe impact of green space cannot be underestimated, and at HMP Littlehey the prisoners use the gardens as a place for respite and fulfilment. The gardens create opportunities for conversation with people they may not otherwise speak to, supplying a break in their normal routines and a chance to get out into the fresh air. One prisoner reflected that: “It’s a great therapeutic device, I can enjoy the hard work and then afterwards take in the wonderful smells and colours. It gives me some peace of mind and allows a space for creativity.”

“I am absolutely thrilled that we have won the Windlesham Trophy this year. Having well-kept grounds and gardens benefits staff and prisoners who live and work here as we can walk past green spaces, flowers and see an abundance of wildlife that directly contributes towards everyone’s health and wellbeing,” Olivia Phelps, Governor at HMP Littlehey.

Developing a sense of pride and achievement

Container planting at HMP Littlehey prison in Cambridgeshire

Working on the gardens and winning the Windlesham Trophy is something each of the prisoners involved are incredibly proud of. Various training courses are made available to all the team, with personal support for each to obtain a horticultural qualification. An ethos of developing responsibility can be seen throughout, with prisoners involved in the initial planning discussions and working on their own team record keeping – showing the positive impacts and improvements being made with each new feature added to the garden.

“Winning the Windlesham Trophy this year is amazing and confirms that all the hard work that has gone into the gardens has been recognised. The 60 prisoners we have working in the gardens are very proud of what they have achieved, and that staff and prisoners walking through the grounds benefit from the work they do, commenting on how lovely it is,” said Karen Green, Industries Manager at Littlehey, oversees all the Land-Based Activities.

The winner of the Windlesham Award in 2022 was HMP Thorn Cross in Cheshire.

You might also be interested in...

Get involved with the RHS

Inspired to garden in your local community? Find out about all the interesting ways you can get involved.

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.