Our story


The challenge

On a summer evening’s cycle ride through a bluebell wood Dr Caroline Jessel is inspired to create a therapeutic centre for vulnerable children in a natural outdoor setting. But with no land, no building, no organisation, no funds, how is it to be achieved?


The commitment

In phone calls, conversations, meetings, others recognise the need and see the vision. A ‘Kitchen Committee’ assembles – a GP experienced in garden therapy, a Rudolf Steiner teacher, a farmer, a company director … They will make it work. It will become Dandelion Time.


The test

A stone cottage, a few acres, an old barn, grass, trees, animals – the generous owners of Pympes Court Farm provide it all at nominal rent. They too believe. The first children, referred by their GPs, come to Dandelion. An idea born in a bluebell wood becomes reality.


The evaluation

Months of Dandelion sessions, dozens of families transformed by the Dandelion experience, the team is working smoothly. But what, from a professional assessment has been achieved, where should development concentrate? Professor Bullock from Dartington examines the evidence. ‘Active and practical’ are the distinctive elements, family involvement the unique, critical feature.


The expansion

Dandelion’s reputation grows, referrals multiply. Dandelion must expand – but where? A manor house is offered, with fields and woods, hedgerows for wildlife, secret gardens for adventure, over 20 acres of creative space. With conviction born of experience, Dandelion takes on the extra obligation and moves to Elmscroft House.


The endorsement

Links are made with one of England’s largest farm-based charities, Farms for City Children, founded by author Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare. With a common philosophy, Michael becomes a Patron: ‘I’d be honoured to support the important and wonderful work of Dandelion Time.’


The assurance

The unique approach of Dandelion Time caseworkers has been key to the charity’s effectiveness. Now the ability to help more families depends on providing more qualified people. An in-house training programme, centred on the Diploma in Creative and Practical Therapeutic Skills, provides assurance for the future.


The second branch

As reputation grows, referrals increase from beyond the Elmscroft House catchment area. Expansion comes with the establishment of a satellite branch based at a scout hut in a beautiful countryside setting near Ashford. More families from a wider area benefit from Dandelion Time.


The homecoming

The Elmscroft House lease expires, but not Dandelion’s ambition. A ‘sister’, Elmscroft Cottage next door, has wonderful land and huge potential for restoration of old farm buildings for workshops, studios, offices, training rooms … and a long lease. Dandelion Time has a home for at least 30 years.


The story

Inspired by our work, John Hunter offers to write our story. The Fields That Heal launches at Wealden Literary Festival, June 2021. ‘The book rings with truth and love’ (Michael Murpurgo) ‘A moving and eye-opening account of a remarkable achievement’ (Alexander McCall Smith). But the story will not end.

Dandelion Time has grown and evolved over the course of 20 years

We are very fortunate to receive a huge amount of support from trusts and foundations, corporates and community groups and would like to say a massive thank you to each and every organisation. Without this support we would not be able to deliver our services, which provide invaluable support to over 140 vulnerable children and families every year.

To view our future development plans please download our Strategic Aims Report

To learn more about how we are funded please download our Annual Report 2022

Our funding partners


families have been supported by Dandelion Time since its programme launched in 2003

Our Ethos

We believe that every child has the opportunity to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment to feel loved and to be free of fear. We put the child at the centre of every decision that we make.

Our people

Meet our team of professionals and volunteers

Our dedicated team are at the heart of everything that we do. They inspire each other to be the best they can be and are committed in transforming young lives.

Our community

Our work wouldn’t be possible without our amazing team of volunteers

From our garden volunteers to our corporate groups, our dedicated volunteers make such a difference to our work. Their passion, energy and generosity of spirit brings a wealth of skills and kindness to help make Dandelion Time such a nurturing place.