The Tunnel Project was set up in Arklow in May 2008 to support people using mental health service in integrating into the community through structured activity in a garden setting. The project is coordinated by County Wicklow Partnership.

People who use this service

The Tunnel Project is targeted at a group of 10-12 long term mental health service users who participate in horticulture and landscaping activities with additional planning for their personal development, physical health and mental wellbeing.

Care Planning

Care planning is a central focus of the work and is constantly reviewed in conjunction with the person concerned. The garden work/landscaping is tailored to meet the individual’s capacities and capabilities. The care plan is directed towards integrating the individual into the community, supporting the individual to move on and opens up opportunities for participants to work in a voluntary capacity in local gardening projects. It provides the confidence and support for independent living while still retaining appropriate contact with the mental health services.


The HSE, the Department of Social Protection, County Wicklow Partnership and the VEC are collaborating with the mental health services of Newcastle Hospital, Greystones, Co. Wicklow to support this project. It is aimed at improving the mental health and social well being of people suffering with enduring mental health diagnoses (mainly schizophrenia).


arklow-mental-health2The Tunnel Project is based on the philosophy that recovery is possible and is a process of changing one’s attitude, values, feelings, goals, skills and /or roles (Anthony 1993). Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as individuals overcome the effects of mental illness.

There are certain concepts or factors are common to recovery:

  • Hope
  • Medication/Treatment
  • Empowerment
  • Support
  • Education/Knowledge
  • Self-help
  • Spirituality
  • Employment/Meaningful activity


Improving recovery outcomes, for people who use the mental health services through horticulture and landscaping skills learning, is beneficial. Over a two- year period the number of admissions to hospital care was reduced significantly and attendance at the programme was greater than 90% for all participants.

Initially the project had access to one garden that was redesigned and turned into a working garden using a poly tunnel to grow vegetables and herbs. As the project progressed the participants in conjunction with Arklow Town Council helped design and develop a sea view garden for the community. This was a great success and was followed by the development of two other gardens: one in a residential home and the other in a local secondary school.


arklow-mental-health3Funding under the Wicklow Sports Partnership

An application has been submitted to the Wicklow Sports Partnership for funding for Active life and Wellbeing Programme.

This will be achieved by the provision of a three stage process:

A seven day programme of Physical Activity and Assessment which will encourage individuals to participate in a full Active Life and Wellbeing Pogramme

A five month Active Life and Wellbeing Programme (Please see submitted documents for additional information)

Sustainable Walking Club and Wellbeing monitoring (to be developed)


The seven day programme will:

  • assess levels of physical ability
  • provide an initial ‘focused education and exercise programme’ for each individual
  • design a healthy eating option as part of the core assessment
  • devise group and individual introductory exercise programs – use of gym, team sports, walking programme, low level cycling initiative


Evelyn Cawley, Coordinator The Tunnel Project

Address: c/o Sonas House, Coolgreany Road, Arklow. Co. Wicklow.