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Home / News / Shore Leave - A Haven for Veterans
Home / News / Shore Leave - A Haven for Veterans

Shore Leave - A Haven for Veterans

Published 17:00 on 3 Dec 2023

On Friday 24th November a select group gathered at Hornet to hear a talk from Chris Robson about Shore Leave Haslar, a Horticultural Therapy project based at the old Haslar Hospital Gardens on Haslar Road, just a few minutes' walk across the bridge from Haslar Marina. For those who were unable to attend, I hope to give a snapshot of just some of the fascinating things Chris told us, entertaining us with a slide show highlighting aspects of the work done at Shore Leave Haslar as she described the work done there. This image, I think, best sums up in a nutshell what the project is about:


Of the five people in this photo, some are veterans, some are volunteers and some are both. There is nothing to distinguish between them.

That egalitarian approach is integral to the work of Shore Leave.

So is the spontaneity of the leaves piled up to spell the initials of the project SLH. That was just something the group did on the spur of the moment, an unplanned creative impulse springing from shared activity which they then requested be photographed.

Veterans are referred to Shore Leave through their GP or via other veterans' services once they have completed their initial therapy and are ready to engage with the project.

The gardens are open to volunteers and veterans every Monday to Friday 9am to 1pm throughout the year apart from Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day. All volunteers are unpaid and each is asked to commit to a minimum of one 4-hour morning a week. The gardens open come rain or shine, wind, hail or snow. It is essential that the veterans know the facility is there should they need it. The gardens even stayed open through Covid lockdowns as they offer medical support.

The project began in 2011 and accepted veterans from 2012. At that point, the old hospital gardens and graveyard were a mass of bramble and overgrown plants. A huge amount of effort was put in by both volunteers and veterans to transform the gardens into the beautiful haven of tranquillity they now are:

However, ultimately it's not about the garden its about the veterans. Everything is done with their welfare and needs in mind. Raised beds make it easier to plant and tend crops, and in this picture we see one of the veterans who has very poor eyesight planting out seedlings, largely by feel. He was also, with appropriate support, able to take part in a 4-week painting course held recently.

Seeds are started off in modules in the lean-to, where the benches are high and there are perching stools so that any who want can share in that task. The veterans often take a deep personal interest in their seeds, and are often amazed at how quickly they germinate.

Working alongside one another, veterans and volunteers are able to develop a relaxed camaraderie and sense of pulling together in a team, supporting one another physically and psychologically.

The vegetable beds at Shore Leave produce far more each year than the veterans can use themselves, and surplus is sold to raise funds for the project at our Open Days (see below for more details) and at our stall at the Alverstoke Michaelmas Fayre on the last Saturday of September each year.

In addition to vegetable growing and the ornamental garden, the project has several bee hives. These are very productive after all, the bees have ample access to all the lovely nectar in the varied planting in the garden and the resultant honey is delicious (I write from experience!).

The gardens are open to the public from 11.00 to 13.00 on the second Wednesday of every month except September in which month they open for two days towards the start of the month as part of Gosport Heritage Open days (see the council website for more details) and also have a stall at the Alverstoke Michaelmas Fayre on the last Saturday of September. Alverstoke is about a mile and a half from the marina and the Fayre is well worth a visit if you're in the area that weekend.


In addition to being a member of HYC, I am privileged to work at the gardens as a volunteer, and would encourage you all to consider coming along to see what goes on in this most worthwhile of projects.

The Gardens are situated just half a mile from Haslar Marina. Take the road over the bridge and past Hornet and the Submarine Museum. Continue along Haslar Road until you reach a barriered entrance with gatehouse on the left. If arriving by car, simply turn in there and you will be directed to the free car park. The pedestrian entrance is just a 3 minute walk further along Haslar Road with entry through large green wooden gates. Entry is free, although of course donations are very welcome.

The next Open Day is on13th December 2023. In 2024 the gardens will be open on:

  • 10th January
  • 14th February
  • 13th March
  • 10th April
  • 8th May
  • 12th June
  • 10th July
  • 14th August

Heritage Open Days and Alverstoke Fayre in September

  • 9th October
  • 13th November
  • 11th December

And to see very many more pictures, visit the Shore Leave Haslar page on Facebook at

Note: You can download the report and the list of open days below

Dorothy Dingle



Last updated 15:33 on 12 December 2023

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