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Green-fingered volunteers help new healing garden to flourish

Volunteer gardeners with a passion for perennials have given service users, staff and carers at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) an extra special Christmas present after creating an attractive healing garden for them to enjoy.

The small group has transformed a sparse garden and the front entrance to the Thurne Ward, at Hellesdon Hospital in Norwich, into a calming space designed to boost emotional, physical and mental wellbeing and help with recovery.

The project has seen the area landscaped to make sure nearly every bedroom can enjoy an attractive view, with new paths and seating areas created and extensive planting added to ensure the garden remains colourful all year round.

A kitchen garden area which is planted with apple trees, strawberries and herbs is available for occupational therapists to use with patients, while a small space for outside activities such as yoga has also been created.

Old pallets and other recycled materials have been used to make vertical herb planters and a bug hotel, while hundreds of spring bulbs have been planted, many in grassy banks so that they can be seen and enjoyed from most of the bedrooms.

The project was the brainchild of carer Ann Shreeve (pictured), whose son has received treatment at the hospital, and is the first garden of its kind on the site. In the longer term, NSFT hopes to develop other healing gardens at Hellesdon so that patients receiving care on all of its wards, plus service users who are accessing support through clinics, as well as carers and staff, can benefit.

“It has been absolutely amazing,” said Ann. “It was very hard work, but definitely worth it. The entrance to the ward now looks so much more welcoming, and shows the area is well cared for.

“We are all so pleased with the way the garden looks. Patients told us that they wanted it to be bright, so we have included a variety of flowers to keep the interest all year round and provide a succession of colour as the season progress.

“As Thurne is an assessment ward, some of the service users receiving treatment are very unwell. We hope that the new-look garden will provide them with something uplifting to look at while also being an inspiring place to relax. We hope that it will help lift people’s spirits and become part of their recovery journey.

“I am very enthusiastic about continuing this work in other ward gardens as the feedback we have had so far has been so overwhelmingly positive.”

Service users and carers were asked for their views on what should be included in the garden, with their ideas then brought to life by NSFT Governor and landscape designer Nigel Boldero.

He said: “It was a new and very interesting challenge to create stimulating and relaxing spaces in a ward environment, and really enjoyable working with a wide range of volunteers to bring it to life. I hope that we can get some ongoing commitment from volunteers to look after the new garden and help take the project forward to other wards.”

Thurne Ward provides short-term admissions for people with a range of mental health conditions. It is hoped the healing garden will give them a safe, non-threatening outdoor environment to enjoy where they can spend some time away from the clinical setting of the ward.

Matron Charlie Loades, who supported the project, said: “We are delighted that work is now complete, and are really grateful to the volunteers who gave up their time to create this wonderful garden.

“Evidence shows that calm and inviting outside spaces can have a really positive impact on mental, emotional and physical health. As well as stimulating the senses, they can help people to relax so that they can better manage negative thoughts and feelings, which is why this project is so important.”

Phase two of the garden project will follow in the new year, and will focus on areas to the front and outside of the ward.

If you would like to help with the garden, or any other project at NSFT, please visit to find out more.

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