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Project to create a healing garden takes root

​Green-fingered gardeners with a passion for perennials are giving up their time to help transform a sparse garden into an attractive outside space for Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) service users, carers and staff to enjoy.

The Healing Gardens project, which launched yesterday (4 Nov), will see a group of volunteers pull together to develop a special calming area to boost the emotional, mental and physical wellbeing of people using Hellesdon Hospital in Norwich.

They will begin by transforming a garden and the front entrance at the Thurne Assessment Ward. Initial digging began yesterday. Volunteers will work on site every day for the next two weeks, including over weekends.

In the longer term, NSFT hopes to develop other healing gardens at Hellesdon Hospital 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.

The project is the brainchild of carer Ann Shreeve, whose son has received treatment at the hospital. She said: "I was very apprehensive on my first visit to a mental health ward. It was a very hot day and I didn't know what to expect.

"My son took me to sit outside on the small veranda where service users were sitting together in the limited shade surrounded by a garden that had seen better days. I looked around and had a strong feeling that even this small space could be redesigned to help people recover.

"I imagined a garden where everyone could find a safe place, a sense of calm and hope for the future. When I could, I talked to service users, carers, staff and Governors and found a strong agreement that changes should be made, and the sooner the better."

Service users and carers have been 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: "I'm a keen gardener and have seen its power in promoting positive thoughts, confidence and relationships. It's also great to be outside, connecting with nature and growing your own food. I'm so glad to be working with service users, carers and staff to create a space which can help people's recovery and wellbeing."

Thurne Ward provides short-term, admissions for people with a range of mental health conditions. The Healing Gardens project aims to help create a safe, non-threatening outdoor environment to help with their recovery while stimulating their senses.

Matron Charlie Loades, who is supporting the project, said: "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.

"We are delighted that work on the garden has now started and are really grateful to the volunteers who are giving up their time to help this vision become a reality. We look forward to continuing to work closely with them over the coming months as our new healing garden starts to take shape."

Anyone who would like more information about the project, or who wishes to volunteer, should email Nigel at as soon as possible.

Caption: Volunteer gardeners yesterday launched the Healing Gardens project at Hellesdon Hospital.

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