By: 10 September 2020
Lockdown good news story – hospital garden opens in London

During lockdown we have all come to realise the importance of outdoor spaces, most notably in hospital settings, and the ways in which they help to support good mental health and recovery. With this in mind, national charity Horatio’s Garden have shown that commitment and determination really do pay off, as they recently opened their fifth garden at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, taking place right on schedule.

Groundworks began in January 2020 after a successful appeal raised over £1.2m to enable this specialist garden, dedicated to the needs of patients with spinal injuries, to go ahead. Ambassador Anneka Rice visited the site in early March to carry out the official ‘groundbreaking’ ceremony, after which the country was thrown into lockdown. Naturally, the nine-month build schedule looked as though it may be in jeopardy…

However, thanks to the dedication of the design and construction team, progress continued at an astonishing pace. The architect, Stephen Marshall, garden designer, Tom Stuart-Smith and major contractors, ARJ Construction, all pulled together to keep the build on track under the professional guidance of project managers, the Robert Lombardelli Partnership Ltd. Obstacles were overcome when building supplies ran low and spirits remained high throughout. Everyone involved persevered and the charity were absolutely delighted to open the garden on time for patients and their families at the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre.

Since 2012 the charity has been creating and nurturing beautiful gardens in NHS spinal injury centres. Each Horatio’s Garden is expertly designed, offering calm and comfort to people as they adjust to living with life-changing injuries.

When the acclaimed, eight-time Chelsea gold medal winner, Tom Stuart-Smith offered to design the charity’s flagship fifth garden, he realised the project had “the capacity to transform the lives of patients with spinal injuries when they are most in need.”

Thanks to his thoughtful design and planting, Horatio’s Garden London & South East will be fully accessible to people in both beds and wheelchairs. The new project features a garden room and uniquely designed ‘garden pods’, ensuring that patients and their loved ones can spend precious time together beyond the hospital wards all year round.

The garden itself also features vast open spaces, as well as intimate places that allow for moments of reflection. As patient Ruth commented, “It is a really difficult thing to go through, a spinal cord injury, not just because of the physical side of things, the mental stuff is actually harder. Having a Horatio’s Garden here at Stanmore will make everything a little bit easier.”

The gardens’ very existence help people throughout their time in hospital, but their role in supporting patients’ mental and physical rehabilitation goes far beyond that. As well as providing a space for physio and occupational therapy, the charity runs various therapeutic workshops, including Social and Horticultural Therapy sessions.

Together with a team of volunteers, the charity’s Head Gardeners organise a varied programme of regular creative groups and events, as well as caring for the gardens, and offer a warm welcome to all those visiting these unique places.

In Horatio’s Garden London & South East, Head Gardener Ashley Edwards will be responsible for all of this, something that the accomplished Kew graduate is very much looking forward to.

He said, “To be part of a garden of such excellent horticultural design that will support people with their mental and physical wellbeing is very special. Being here from day one is such a fantastic opportunity.”

Seeing patients and NHS staff exploring this long-awaited garden will be the start of a new chapter in the Horatio’s Garden story, which in the current climate feels more apposite than ever.

To get in touch, please email or call 01722 326834.
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