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Outside haven created for service users
06/08/2020

Disused garden space at one of Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s wards has been transformed into a garden haven for patients, relatives and staff.

The garden at Foxhall House, a men’s low secure ward in Suffolk, was the inspiration of Assistant Practitioner Jack Everett (pictured above), who started the project when he was a student on a foundation degree in Suffolk.

“Part of the course included working on the development of a service improvement, so I wrote a proposal for the creation of a therapeutic garden using an unused piece of land within the ward at Foxhall,” said Jack, who has just finished the apprenticeship. “Holistic care is something we at Foxhall House are passionate about, and I wanted to use my interest in the therapeutic benefit of nature to create a space that promotes our services user’s health and well-being.” “The evidence on the benefits of therapeutic landscapes is vast and well publicised with the prescription of nature-based interventions (social prescribing) becoming ever more prevalent.”

The garden includes a winding path through the sensory garden, which includes plants which stimulate the senses through touch, sight, smell and hearing. Such as ‘Artemisia abrotanum coca cola form’ which smells of cola bottles and ‘Stachys byzantina (lambs ears) which are remarkably soft and velvety to touch. There is also a vegetable patch for our service users to grow their own produce to use in their cooking, a wildlife meadow and pond as well as our therapy rabbit Hazel.

The project has received support from the world-renowned Beth Chatto Gardens who have donated all the plants for the sensory garden.

“We got in touch with Beth Chatto Gardens, highlighting what we were trying to do and the story behind it and they were enthusiastic to support us by providing all the plants for the sensory garden” said Jack.

Everything in the garden has been donated and all the work has been done by Jack, colleagues and the patients on the ward. “The garden is really coming into its own this year and next year we want to continue the development of this space and it’s benefits to our service users.”

He added: “The benefit of this space for our service users has been vast. The opportunity to spend time away from the ward environment enjoying the garden and getting in touch with nature has been particularly important during lockdown. Some of the benefits include social interaction, increased exercise, learning new skills, relaxation, sense of achievement, improved attention/ sensory processing and regulation.”

Dave Ward, Garden and Nursery Director for Beth Chatto’s Plants and Gardens said: “We were delighted to supply a selection sensory plants for this project. The value of spending time outside, in your own garden or in a community garden has never been so appreciated as over the past few months.

“As well as the immediate benefits, it’s good to hear that the experiences gained will feed back into the research being carried out into the value of such projects to mental health and wellbeing. It’s so important that those businesses who are not directly on the frontline support those who are.”