BBG plays doubles in successful social prescribing partnership with Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society

In a vibrant oasis nestled within the heart of Edgbaston, Birmingham Botanical Gardens (BBG) is not just a sanctuary for flora and fauna but a nurturing ground for community wellness.

Teaming up with Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society (EALTS), BBG has embarked on a unique partnership and journey of social prescribing, enriching the lives of around 50 carers and isolated adults, through the combined power of nature and sports.

Located next door to each other, BBG and EALTS are making the most of their proximity by working together to deliver three transformative social prescribing projects – Carers Tennis Project, Tennis Connect and Exercise Connect.

Not only are the projects helping people get outside, exercise and socialise, but the beautiful surroundings of The Botanical Gardens are also playing a part in supporting people’s health and wellbeing by connecting them to nature.

At the heart of this partnership lies a profound understanding of the therapeutic potential of green spaces. A report from the from the Mental Health Foundation underscores the profound impact of ‘nature connectedness’ on people’s mental and emotional health, and how high quality urban green spaces, like BBG, can enable more people to enjoy and connect with the environment.

We are the lucky tennis club. We have the most beautiful surroundings you could hope for being direct neighbours to the Botanical Gardens.” Neil Glasspool, EALTS Club Secretary

BBG plays doubles in successful social prescribing partnership with Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society


Founded in 1860, EALTS is the oldest lawn tennis club in the world. As part of the club’s development plan, it was keen to encourage a greater number of people from the surrounding area to utilise its year-round play facilities and be a ‘force for good’ in the local community.

A meeting between EALTS with Birmingham Mental Health Carers Support Service subsequently enabled three projects to be developed. The projects combine weekly tennis coaching and exercise sessions at EALTS with social time at BBG.

When it came to providing the social element of the projects, Neil Glasspool, EALTS Club Secretary reached out to Sara Blair-Manning, Chief Executive of BBG who was delighted to support the projects and work collaboratively with EALTS.

“Being located next door to the beautiful Birmingham Botanical Gardens made it a natural partnership for the projects. We are so pleased to have been able to host the projects with both our facilities and with the partnership that has grown with our close neighbours.”  Neil Glasspool

The Projects: 

  • The Carers Tennis Project: a weekly coached tennis session for females followed by social time in the Gardens.
  • Tennis Connect: Held weekly on Fridays, the Tennis Connect group is designed for people over 50 living alone. It offers the combination of company, exercise and relaxation in nature. Participants undertake 45 minutes of exercise, 45 minutes of tennis coaching and an hour of peaceful contemplation at BBG to promote mental health and wellbeing.
  • Exercise Connect: Exercise Connect was established as an ‘extra’ session to Tennis Connect following high demand for the project. People meet weekly every Wednesday.

The three social prescribing projects are being delivered thanks to funding from Sport England, The National Lottery Community Fund, Lawn Tennis Association, Warwickshire Lawn Tennis Association, Boost, and Lillie C Johnson Charitable Trust. The projects also have support from Sportworks, an award-winning social enterprise.

Many of the participants taking part in the projects have been referred by The Active Wellbeing Society (TAWS) which has links with social prescribers at two local GP surgeries.

“Social prescribing helps to create and nurture connections between people and places, sharing community assets and opportunities with a diverse range of people. Crucially social prescribing provides a supportive framework for those first steps, encouraging new community members to visit The Botanical Gardens and benefit from this unique and special green space in the city.” Jen Ridding, Head of Engagement and Learning, Birmingham Botanical Gardens

BBG plays doubles in successful social prescribing partnership with Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society

First steps into nature

The social side of all the projects is vital. It gives participants an opportunity to form new friendships and support circles, as well as connect with nature. It also encourages new community members to visit the Gardens and benefit from this unique and special green space in the city.

The time spent at BBG also addresses the downward national trend of people gaining health benefits from nature.

In a recent ONS report based on the 2021 Census, it was found that people in the UK are spending less time in natural environments since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The value of the lost health benefits from spending time in nature has been estimated at around £390 million, equivalent to an NHS spend of £356 per person on average.

‘Green’ social prescribing that encourages connections to nature, can be fundamental for improving an individual’s quality of life.

The National Social Prescribing Academy has reported that not only does being immersed in nature increase mental and physical wellbeing, but it also helps to strengthen social structures fostering a social connectedness, decreasing the feeling of isolation.

“This project is a great weekly social event. We meet as a group in stimulating surroundings. The Gardens offer a peaceful addition to the day.” Tennis Connect participant

BBG plays doubles in successful social prescribing partnership with Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society

Nurturing nature connections

The social element of the projects is further enhanced with talks and tours of The Gardens.

Sila Bolat, Conservation Ranger at the Gardens, leads a number of tours around The Gardens. She aims to both educate and foster a love of nature in participants during her tours.

“The tours are a great opportunity to show participants The Gardens and how they evolve with the seasons. I aim to make the tours interactive and sensory; using poetry, the colours of nature, and the smells within the Gardens such as the wild garlic, to bring them to life. It’s as wonderful for me as it is for the participants. They are engaged and ask so many questions. It’s great fun and a lovely experience for me to share my love of BBG and see the participants develop a deepened connection with nature.” Sila Bolat

BBG plays doubles in successful social prescribing partnership with Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society

Sustainable Growth

Sustainability is key for all the projects. BBG and EALTS are keen to keep fostering ongoing engagement, ensuring the legacy of their partnership flourishes beyond the projects.

EALTS is now looking to identify future funding streams that will enable project participants to become members of the tennis club. This will enable them to continue to play tennis with their newly formed social circles. BBG has also agreed that project members can continue to utilise The Gardens for social time.

It is hoped that the project beneficiaries will create an independent community group, with a constitution supported by both EALTS and BBG.

The partnership is an example of the transformative potential of collaboration, proving that when communities come together, they have the power to nurture growth, foster connection, and cultivate a brighter tomorrow.

“Building new connections with our community neighbours is central to the future of The Gardens. The partnership with EALTS and TAWS demonstrates the impact we can have by working together and collaborating to amplify the benefits our community assets offer and nurture positive difference in the lives of our community members.” Jen Ridding