A ROYAL Navy veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has found solace through gardening at a Help for Heroes Recovery Centre.

Mark Penhallurick, 51, from Basingstoke, left the Royal Navy in 1988 after suffering a leg injury whilst on duty two years earlier.

The injury led to bulging discs on his spine, osteochondritis in his knee and a torn hip cartilage.

Between 1988 and 2013, Mark, who was an able seaman, had 10 operations on his leg, but unfortunately there was a problem during an operation in 2013 to realign his leg.

“The screw for the metal plate hit my perineal nerve which has never recovered and I now have drop foot and have to wear a leg brace,” he said.

In 2014, Mark was diagnosed with PTSD after suffering a breakdown resulting from the aftermath of his leg injury.

He had left his role as a prison officer because Reading Prison was closing.

Speaking of the breakdown, he said: “I’d always had bad nightmares but never thought anything of it.

“After returning from a family holiday I went to bed because I was so tired and the next thing I remember is my daughter, who was seven at the time, crying and hugging me and I didn’t know why.

“It turns out I had been downstairs and smashed the house up, and for three days after I didn’t leave my bedroom. I don’t remember a lot about those three days.”

He sought help and visited his local GP who referred him to counselling sessions.

He continued: “That’s when I was diagnosed with PTSD. It had laid dormant for 28/29 years because I’d gone from the Navy to the prison service and I was constantly active and when I left, I wasn’t active and lost my routine, and it all started building up and it hit me. It came out of nowhere.”

Mark said his family has been supportive.

He joined a veterans’ club which is where he became aware of the work of Help for Heroes and Tedworth House Recovery Centre.

“I joined other navy veterans on a visit to Tedworth House where I finally felt amongst my own. Even just having a cup of tea and having a wander of the grounds, you have the comradeship and support from people who have experienced similar things themselves,” he said.

Mark, who said his family has been supportive, decided to do a gardening course, adding: “I had nothing to lose – I would be outside in fresh air, which I had in the Navy, there would be other people in the same situation. I thought I’d go along and see what it was all about.”

Mark enrolled on the City and Guilds NVQ Level 2 horticulture course and attends Tedworth House once a week to work through the course with other wounded, injured and sick serving personnel and veterans.

He said: “Civilian life and military life are so different, even within the prison service I stuck with ex-forces. It makes me so much more relaxed to be around people that have been through the same things as me.”

He added: “It’s been a great team experience. If someone is not feeling their best we pick them up and move forward. Sometimes the greenhouse goes quiet because we are all concentrating on planting seeds then someone will crack a joke and we’ll all be rolling around laughing.”

Once the course is complete Mark will join the gardening club, and said: “I’d recommend it to anyone, there are raised flowerbeds for wheelchair users, even with an injury it hasn’t limited me – it’s made me realise I can do it.”

Giles Woodhouse, head of recovery south, said: “I am pleased to see Mark is inspired by horticulture and determined to live a full life beyond injury.”