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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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
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.
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 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.