Secret garden gives veterans fresh hope and confidence

Rob Wilson, 48 - was in the army 22 years
Rob Wilson, 48 - was in the army 22 years
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When veterans are full of despair and are struggling to cope with civilian life, having a safe haven to go to where they can talk to like-minded people with no expectations of them is a great help.

Today, as part of our series looking at the battles faced by veterans, Investigative Reporter AASMA DAY looks at the work of Dig In at Ashton Park in Preston.

Any time Rob Wilson sits in a pub, restaurant, or cafe, he never sits with his back to the crowd or the door.

It is part of an in-built reflex he has after years in the army to always be on his guard and expect the unexpected.

Rob, 48, who is married to Marlene and has a 23-year-old son Ryan, explains: “You always want to sit where you can see everything that is going on and a lot of people who have been in the military do this.

“Some do not even realise they are doing it. It is just an automatic instinct.”

Rob, who was in the Army for 22 years, began suffering nightmares and flashbacks and had trouble sleeping.

He now realises he must have had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for at least 15 years before it was eventually diagnosed after he suddenly suffered a mini stroke.

After suffering a breakdown last year, Rob began getting treatment and hardly ever left his home.

Then he started going to Dig In, a therapeutic garden for military veterans at Ashton Park in Preston.

Rob says: “I was a bit cynical at first because when you are at rock bottom, you think: ‘How can gardening help me?’

“But Dig In is great as you can mix with like-minded people from the military and still have the banter.

“You can sit and talk or just have a coffee on your own. There is no pressure or deadlines and the first and foremost rule is that we don’t get stressed about anything.

“It is important for veterans to recognise they have a problem and not feel too frightened to ask for help.

“Veterans don’t like being called heroes as that puts a lot of pressure on them.”

For Rob’s full story, see today’s Lancashire Evening Post or tablet apps.