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Veteran digs deep for charities with World War One Gardening Scotland entry

Fife veteran, Ray Howie, is gearing up for Scotland’s most prestigious gardening competition to raise money for BackOutThere.

Prize winning Ballingry gardener, Ray Howie, is laying the ground for Gardening Scotland 2014 at the end of May with a special entry to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

Ray’s “Lest We Forget” entry will mark the centenary of WWI which started on 4 August 1914. A trench within the garden will show the conditions of trench warfare and highlight awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) suffered by the soldiers, known then as shell shock. Flags of countries that fought in The Great War will also feature.

Green fingered Ray is creating the garden with a team of fellow armed forces veterans and volunteers to raise money for BackOutThere and the Thistle Foundation, who previously worked with Ray in 2011.

Ray spent over seven years in the Black Watch, serving in Belize, Kenya and Northern Ireland. The 43 year old suffered multiple serious injuries before he was medically discharged from the army.

“Seven years after I left I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I’ve been helped by various charities including Combat Stress, Gardening Leave and the Thistle Foundation. More recently I’ve been working with BackOutThere, heading up a community project at Yellowcraigs beach working with the community and fellow veterans giving something back to the local community. BackOutThere also has more exciting projects in the pipeline for 2014.”

“The “Lest We Forget” Garden is a tribute to both charities and all veterans. It’s an acknowledgment that veterans from World War One to the current day still suffer the same with PTSD, although it was known as something quite different back then. We will also have a surprise twist for the opening of the show as part of the trench. It will be very realistic!” Since Ray discovered his passion for gardening he has been inspired to help other ex servicemen get into gardening.

“Veterans need support to get back into their communities. For me gardening was the answer. I found it so therapeutic. And working with other veterans and seeing how much they enjoy it makes me really driven. This year one of the veterans from the Thistle course is coming back to work with me, along with veterans from BackOutThere. It’s great to know it’s helping make a difference. And to be able to help these two fantastic charities that do great work with veterans.”

Ray is an experienced show gardener. He has previously picked up bronze awards with the charity Gardening Leave at Gardening Scotland 2012 and 2013 and gold awards at the Ayr Flower Show twice in 2011 and 2012. Ray also won Fife Council gardening competition three years consecutively. He also designs flower arrangements for weddings and says his dream is to make it to the Chelsea Flower show.

Alex Freeborn, Founder of BackOutThere said “We are delighted to be supporting and working with Ray this year for Gardening Scotland and further projects in 2014. It’s fantastic that he has chosen to work with veterans charities as it brings the charities closer together and helps us form partnerships for the future to work with other veterans too”

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© 2015 Back Out There
Charity number (SCIO) SC043528