Today we are shining a light on Colonel (ret’d) Sally Coulthard MBE CF FRSA, as part of our celebrations following International Women's Day 2021.
Sally’s military career started in 1981 at Cambridge University as a Bursar for the Royal Army Educational Corps. After commissioning in 1982, her experience has spanned a wide range of education and training appointments as well as Personnel Strategy and Policy experience in the MOD.
Her experience includes cross government department programmes in Employer Engagement, support to Wounded, Injured and Sick personnel as well as the recruitment of reservists under Future Reserves 2020. Sally has also worked for the military charitable sector as a Programme Manager for the Royal British Legion Training College.
Before retiring from the Army in 2020, Sally used her Enhanced Learning Credits to study a Masters in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture, and was awarded a travel grant by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to study nature based therapy for veterans in Scandinavia and the USA. Her fellowship report is the underpinning evidence upon which the Defence Gardens Scheme is founded. You can read this report here.
The Defence Gardens Scheme is a developing network of in-barracks and community gardens that offer nature based therapy for service leavers, veterans and their families. DGS started life in 2019 in Northern Ireland in partnership with the Brooke House Health and Wellbeing Centre at Colebrooke Park in Co Fermanagh, and has since expanded to Ashes to Gold in Coleraine and to Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn.
A range of smaller community based gardens are being developed in this year. Nationally, in February 2021, the Scheme was rolled out to two gardens in Greater Manchester and one in Wiltshire. The network is planned to grow regionally across UK in a phased expansion over the next 5 years.
Sally is extremely grateful to the NI Veterans Support Office, 38 Brigade, Brooke House Health and Wellbeing Centre and Ashes to Gold for their support to DGS in its early formative years. She said:
“There is no doubt in my mind that the development of the DGS regional Hub and Spoke model is entirely reliant on the support of key stakeholders in Northern Ireland. Between us we have developed an intervention and a model for delivery that is fit for purpose and now well placed to roll out regionally. I am also extremely grateful for the financial support from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for enabling us all to work together. Recent recognition by the John Muir Trust for the DGS programme to be able to award the Discovery Award to participants, is a much-appreciated endorsement.”
Sally also added: “This International Women’s Week, the value of why the DGS has a role to play in military rehabilitation can be summed up in the words of inspirational female leader, Florence Nightingale, who observed the effects of gardening on soldiers in the Crimean War -
‘ I shall never forget the rapture of fever patients over a bunch of brightly coloured flowers, people say that the effect is only on the mind, it is no such thing it is on the body too…’