Horatio’s Garden

How nature is helping improve rehabilitation

Spinal cord injuries are traumatic, life-changing events. Often when people are being treated in hospital, they have little or no access to the outside world. Yet research shows that being in contact with nature can make a big difference to someone’s wellbeing and rehabilitation.

In May 2021, we gave a grant of £23,000 to support activities and maintenance of Horatio’s Garden at the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre. The special outdoor area acts as an extension of the centre’s medical wards.

“Horatio’s Garden has had the most remarkable effect on the morale of everyone associated with our centre,” says Dr Jan Gawronski, Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine at the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre. “It has transformed the physical and psychological rehabilitation experience for our spinal cord injury patients and their families.”

  • The London Spinal Cord Injury Centre supports 260 inpatients and 1,400 outpatients annually, all of whom have access to Horatio’s Garden.
  • 100% of NHS staff believe patients benefit from using Horatio’s
  • 10,000 plants were planted in the London garden including 336 trees and shrubs.

Calming green space for patients and families

The garden, which opened in September 2020, was designed by renowned garden designer, Tom Stuart-Smith, and was built by national charity Horatio’s Garden, in close collaboration with the spinal centre team, as well as current and former patients. The garden surrounds the entire centre, creating a view of greenery from every window. And there’s direct access from each room out into the garden too. Smooth accessible paths mean patients can visit the garden whether they’re using wheelchairs or on bedrest.

There’s a large garden room for activities and socialising, as well as a quiet, calm space with flowing water and a glade of birch trees. The quiet part of the garden has individual pods where patients can relax alone or with their visitors away from the ward.

“Learning and adjusting after a spinal cord injury is lifelong. It’s essential that Horatio’s Garden receives the funding necessary to ensure it remains an outstanding and permanent resource,” says Dr Gawronski.

“The garden is somewhere to sit, relax, clear your mind or have a cry. Being in the fresh air is good for your mind. It impacts on my rehabilitation; if I am in a good mood I do well in my physical therapy sessions.”
Jess, patient

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