New Leaf is the name given to the range of rehabilitation services given as part of Devon Partnership NHS Trust. The site at Hillcrest, Exminster includes a cafe, woodworks and a horticultural nursery. Established in 1990, Hillcrest Growers is based on a 35-acre site and operates as a commercial plant nursery producing plants for the public and private sectors. The trust joined the NHS Forest in 2011.

New Leaf is always looking for new opportunities for people using the service to gain new skills, improve the environment and help towards the sustainability of the business. Involvement in the NHS Forest project is certainly ticking all those boxes.

New Leaf at Hillcrest Growers - orchard
New Leaf at Hillcrest Growers – orchard. All rights reserved.
New Leaf at Hillcrest Growers - orchard
New Leaf at Hillcrest Growers – orchard. All rights reserved

New Leaf has several exciting projects in progress which meet these aims, as Don Crispin explains:

“On the New Leaf site we have planted a mixture of fruit trees including apples, plums, pears and cherries. This gives us the ability to offer a range of training activities, site maintenance, pruning, harvesting etc. The produce is currently used within New Leaf CafĂ©.

“Our next phase of planting has started, with an extension to the orchard of 150 apple trees. The fruit from these trees, in the future will be sold or processed on site to produce cloudy apple juice.

“In addition we are also currently planting 200 Picea abies [Norway spruces – commonly used as Christmas trees], this is part of our annual planting programme, growing towards our future Christmas sales.

“Another venture on the site is the development of a recovery forest, working closely with the Wild Things Project.

 “The aim is to initially plant part of the site with native trees like oak, ash and beech, so that we have the beginnings of a new forest. The whole area is used for this but there are extensive spaces left between trees within which other trees can be planted as part of the recovery process. These plots are offered to people using the recovery and independent living service, enabling them to plant trees on the site. Each person is invited to a tree planting ceremony in which they choose a tree to represent their own personal recovery, write affirmations for their future onto strips of birch bark, tie these to the roots and then plant the tree. They are then invited to participate in the maintenance and use of the forest, either through Wild Things or with New Leaf.”

The recovery forest will also be used by Wild Things for environmental arts therapy sessions and other outdoor activities.

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