Connect to Nature Online Class. The Secret Garden


Dear readers,

Welcome back to another Connect to Nature Online creative writing class. This week’s theme is the ‘Secret Garden’. Did you ever read that book when you were growing up? I did and the intrigue of a high garden wall or a locked garden gate has never left me!

Working in mental health I learnt an interesting thing many years ago; our brains find it very hard to distinguish between thoughts and reality. If we have a worrying thought it can trigger the same reaction as an actual event (hence why people suffer from post-traumatic stress way after a traumatic event has taken place).

The great news is that we can also use this to our advantage for positive mental health. If we imagine a beautiful place and take ourselves there in our mind we can experience the same benefit as if we were actually there. Our bodies will experience the same sense of relaxation and joy. So, this week’s class is aimed at helping everyone to discover their own secret garden and quiet place of peace and wellbeing.

Let’s begin!

Task 1: (5 mins) Look at the pictures of garden gates below. Imagine opening a gate. Start with the words ‘I open the gate and find’ and then follow with ten words describing what you can see. (Hint: it could be the huge rolling grounds a historic house, or perhaps a little courtyard full of flowers). Here are two examples to get you going:

I open the garden gate and find: rolling lawns, long lush meadows, borders bursting with scented flowers.

Or – I open the gate and find: a courtyard, warm flagstones, climbing ivy and roses, bubbling fountain.

Task 2: (5 mins) Something that brings me joy: In the book the ‘Secret Garden’ a young robin reveals the hiding place of the key to the gate. The robin then features in various scenes and is a character we look out for in the story.

Free write for five minutes about something you look out for regularly in the natural world. It might be a type of bird, or perhaps a perfect sunset, or something entirely different.

Task 3: (10 mins) Your very own secret garden: Using your imagination write for ten minutes about your perfect garden. It might be a garden you have visited in the past, or perhaps a garden you are familiar with now.

Remember to include how it would look and feel to be in that garden. Take me on a walk around the garden. (I’ve included some pictures from the beautiful Nunnington Hall Gardens in North Yorkshire for inspiration). Be as free as you wish!

Task 4: (5 mins) Reaping the rewards of creative writing! This task is about enjoying what we have written and using creative writing for wellbeing. Re-read your words from task 3. Now go and find a comfy place to sit or lie. If you can make it outside do so (it will add to the effect), if not a comfy armchair or your bed will do!

Rest your eyes for five minutes and using your imagination visit your secret garden. Walk around the garden, what does it feel like underfoot, what can you see and smell? What can you hear? Set a little timer if you like so that you aren’t distracted worrying about how long you have had your eyes closed!

Once you have completed this task write for a few minutes about the experience and reflect on how you felt before and after.

If you enjoyed it you can you use your imagination to create other beautiful visualisations – such as going to the beach, or a favourite holiday destination.

I hope that you have enjoyed this week’s class. I would love to hear about your imaginative gardens. Look out for Saturday’s Art Challenge which will be on the theme of re-creating natural spaces from our imagination and getting them onto paper.

Don’t forget to email me your lovely words if you would like to share them, or let me know how you have found these tasks in the comments below.

Take care,

With best wishes,


  1. Ooooo – I haven’t got the ones you mention, I will look into them. I’m slowly growing my own nature…

Published by Emma

Hi my name is Emma! I am a writer and artist. I work for the NHS at Converge ( and I am also an MA graduate in Creative writing and am currently studying for a PhD in Humanities. I have been leading a creative writing class at the beautiful St Nicks in York ( for the last five years. When I am not at work I'm on my allotment or at Base Camp (my home) planning new adventures.

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