Clinks Care Farm in Toft Monks is set to expand

Clinks Care Farm at Toft Monks, near Beccles, has been welcoming people under its ground-breaking scheme 'farming on prescription' since October last year.

A pioneering project near Beccles that gives GP-referred patients the chance to work on a farm to help aid their recovery is set to expand after a successful year-long pilot. DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP reports.

It is now planning to help more people into work, access further education or move on to other volunteer placements. It has also set up connections with local businesses.

It has also put on training sessions in pig and sheep husbandry and looking after chickens, and hopes to expand by introducing more sessions, such as cooking classes.

In addition, Norfolk County Council will be investing �30,000 over the next two years to help Clinks Care Farm develop 10 operational care farms in Norfolk.

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Managed as a social enterprise by Doeke Dobma and his wife Iris, Mr Dobma explained why this project needed to keep going.

'Just being on the farm with other people, doing meaningful activities, has been so beneficial to the people who have come here,' he said.

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'People have lost weight, learnt new skills, both education and social. Some people have also noticed improvements in their sleeping pattern.'

The farm is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK and offers people, including those with mental health problems, the chance to use the farm environment to aid their recovery by improving confidence, self-esteem and motivation.

It also provides respite breaks and opportunities for people to mix and socialise with others to develop their interests, skills and knowledge.

Andy Jaye, 32, from Bungay, got involved with Clinks almost a year ago after coming out of a long-term coma as a result of a car accident.

He said: 'I had a brain injury and I couldn't remember anything of my PHD studies. I thought where do I go from here? They were able to give me a job here. Although it's taken me a bit of getting use to, it's a really great place.'

The Farming on Prescription project is being run in partnership with the farm, NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney and Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

There have so far been 30 people involved in the pilot and Clinks Care Farm now has a waiting list.

Mr Dobma is also looking for more volunteers to help with selling their produce at local farmers market. For more information contact him on 07784 730846.

To view a photo gallery of 'a year of Clinks Care Farm' click the photo gallery link in the top right hand corner of the page.

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