VETERANS who are wheelchair bound will now be able to take part in a gardening project thanks to a donation of 50 railway sleepers to Shoulder to Soldier.

The  sleepers will be used at the support group’s allotment in Leigh to make flower beds in the hope that it will make it easier for wheelchair users to take part in the planting.

The donation of old railway sleepers from Network Rail came as a huge surprise to the beneficiaries and campaigners associated with the charity founded in 2017 by Linda Fisher.

The allotment where the sleepers will be used was given to the charity last October by Bents Garden Centre, when it was severely overgrown after being abandoned by the former owners.

In just seven months it has been transformed, complete with drainage and special walkways which allow wheelchair access to the site.

Former RAF drill instructor Ken Orton, 81, served between 1955 and 1957. He is ever present at the allotment having been there from the start.

He said: “The weeds were taller than me!

“We’ve been here every weekend. The people doing the work are veterans, men and women.

“A lot of them have got stress and various problems. They’re finding it very therapeutic coming down here.”

Mr Orton went on to tell the story of a veteran with brain damage who lived 25 miles away from the allotment and was afraid to leave his house due to his condition.

“A chap from Combat Stress bought him down one Sunday morning. When he got here he never stopped talking!”

“In fact he’s moved to Leigh just to be part of the group. We hired a van and the lads moved him.

“It’s changed his life completely. He’s much more confident.

“When he came here for the first time that Sunday morning and never stopped talking, I thought this is what it’s all about.”

Mr Orton also said, “On a Sunday morning we come down and we’ve got the stove going and we have a brew and have bacon sandwiches”

“Some do some work, some only come to have a chat but its helping them because they’re meeting people from a similar background.”

“We’re becoming part of this community, which these lads need. They’ve got to get back into society”

“A lot of them have become withdrawn. That’s what this charity does for them.”


Replica Viking ship at the back of the allotment used for storage

A Ministry of Defense report found that the number of British military personnel coming back with a mental health condition has almost doubled over the last decade, from 1.8 per cent to 3.2 per cent between 2006 and 2017.

With many ex-service men and women struggling to adapt to civilian life after serving due these mental health conditions, such as PTSD, Shoulder to Soldier provide them somewhere to socialise with other ex-service personnel in a nice environment.

The charity is always grateful for any donations and they can be made via their website.

Alternatively, if you are an ex service man or woman from Greater Manchester then you can contact the charity here.



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