A spinal cord injury is a traumatic, life-changing event.
It is estimated that there are 50,000 people in the UK living with a spinal injury and each year approximately 2,500 people are newly injured.*
The majority of patients spend upwards of two months in hospital and during that time they have little to no access to the outside world.**
Horatio’s Garden is working to change that.
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The spinal cord is an extension of your brain. It’s a bundle of nerves and other tissue extending from the base of the brain at the top of your neck right down the length of your back. It is protected by bones, or vertebrae, which make up the spine and by spinal fluid.
The interaction between the brain and spinal cord are vital for controlling bodily functions. The spinal cord is responsible for communicating messages to and from the brain from all parts of the body. These messages and impulses help us to move our bodies, feel pressure or pain and control vital functions such as breathing, blood pressure, bladder and bowels.
If the spinal cord is damaged or injured, then some of these messages and impulses may be interrupted. A spinal cord injury can be caused by a trauma, like an accident, or as a result of infection or disease.
Most injuries cause partial or total loss of feeling or movement in the parts of the body below the level of the injury, including limbs and internal organs. If the damage or break in the spine is close to your neck, this will cause paralysis in a larger part of your body than damage to the spinal cord lower down your back. However, loss of movement and sensation will vary from person to person, even if the spinal cord is damaged in the same place.
Alongside the physical impact of a spinal cord injury, there are also immense emotional and psychological effects on the person concerned and their loved ones.
This is where Horatio’s Garden offers support.
Each Horatio’s Garden offers patients, their loved ones and NHS staff a beautiful sanctuary where they can relax away from the ward.
Research conducted by both the charity and external organisations demonstrates that being in contact with a natural environment contributes to people having an improved sense of wellbeing, which in turn has a particularly positive impact on patients’ and their loved ones as they adjust to life with a spinal cord injury.
As the majority of patients face extended stays in hospitals far from home, Horatio’s Garden becomes an integral part of people’s lives over many months. Visits from family and friends are precious and the gardens give everyone a comfortable, warm and welcoming place to simply enjoy each other’s company.
“It’s good to have a place where you can just take some time to consider everything. Being able to sit and chat to other patients and families in the garden is a real comfort.”
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Furthermore, the gardens are fully accessible and expertly designed to ensure that patients can visit them independently whenever they like. Every garden has quiet, intimate places of repose, giving everyone the chance to think and reflect if they need to, whilst simultaneously offering people the opportunity to be part of a thriving community of fellow patients and families.
“Horatio’s Garden has given me a safe place to go to, either by myself or with my family when they visit. I enjoy going to the garden to do activities with other patients, or to just sit and think when I’ve got a lot on my mind. It has made me so much happier, especially because I can go out there and be independent.”
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Every week the charity organise a range of activities and workshops for patients, their families and friends in collaboration with hospital staff. Everyone is welcome to join in, with activities ranging from therapeutic gardening and art to support patients’ mental and physical rehabilitation, to seasonal events with delicious food, live music and more.
Please click on the chart to view it in fullscreen
Patients and their loved ones will always be at the heart of what we do and we are committed to doing everything we can to support them throughout their time in hospital and beyond.
May 15 2020
"I'm a 22 year-old graduate, artist, musician, photographer, activist, nature lover. And I'm tetraplegic. Before my accident I climbed trees every day and lived a life of passionate, reckless abandon and love. On this day I have spent seven months in hospital. During this time, Horatio's Garden has given me a way to be outside, a way to meet friends, meet family, find home. I spent every evening here with my sister during the long winter. It kept me going. In September, I sat in the garden and cried for the first real time. Horatio's Garden couldn't be my wilderness, but it could be my home until I was ready to go back and face my own. Thank you."
April 15 2020
"I am so proud of all the patients and staff. We all tend to the garden whenever we can and it's always delightful to see people watering the plants or potting up seedlings. Getting away from the hospital environment has helped my wellbeing and I know many others feel the same. Horatio's Garden is a haven and to see everyone outside having fun and laughing, or even just enjoying the relaxing, atmosphere is fantastic." - Rebecca Warren, Ward Manager of The Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries
March 18 2020
"The garden has provided a place of healing, a place to be alone, to think, to cry, to talk openly with family and friends, to meet other patients, to practice wheelchair skills, to let nature heal. So, to everyone who has supported Horatio's Garden in any way, I thank you. The difference you have made has been amazing."
March 10 2020
"Before, you had nowhere to go with your friends, or your girlfriend, just up and down the corridor. But in Horatio's Garden, you've got these alcoves. It's so peaceful and really thoughtfully done."
March 2 2020
"I think Horatio's Garden is such an amazing place. The garden is remarkable and it makes you feel so good about yourself. Being able to spend time with lots of other people who are in the same situation has helped me to feel free. Thank you very much."
February 4 2020
"I just have to say a very big thank you to you and your excellent team of volunteers. We were always made to feel so welcome when we visited the lovely Horatio's Garden and the afternoon cups of tea and cakes were a treat! It has been a great privilege to relax in the tranquil garden.
With profound thanks."
October 18 2019
"Firstly, thank you to Head Gardener Jacqui and all the volunteers for making us feel so welcome and as though we are part of a loving family whilst spending time so far from home. Secondly, thank you to Horatio and all his family for having the idea to create a peaceful garden. It has been so helpful throughout my rehabilitation. Finally, thank you to all the patients who have been so generous with their friendship and help whilst I've spent time here. Being in Horatio's Garden has been a real pleasure and the memory of this lovely place, which was there for us in the middle of such pain and worry, will stay with myself and my husband as we move onwards."
September 29 2019
"Thank you to everyone who works so hard in this wonderful garden. The volunteers are all amazing, so kind and caring. Many thanks."
August 18 2019
"Horatio's Garden fosters a sense of community amongst spinal patients that we would not otherwise have. It's a welcoming space for patients and visitors alike and it's separate from the feeling of being in a hospital. It's a respite from the worries of spinal injuries and hospital stressors."
August 6 2019
"I just wanted to write a little note to thank you for all that you do in Horatio's Garden. I'm sure you're aware of it already, but I really wanted to emphasise the importance of what you guys do and of the incredible resource you provide. There is no doubt in my mind that your gardens, volunteers and staff all improve the quality of life of people with spinal injuries. Thanks again and all the best."
July 5 2019
"On the ward, it's so stressful because there's so much noise and sometimes people knock into your bed. It's just amazing to be able to get out here into the quiet and beauty. I can't believe how many birds there are."
July 4 2019
"As the wife of a recently paraplegic patient, I just wanted to let you know the positive impact your wonderful garden has had on both our spirits. A truly life-affirming legacy. Thank you."
June 30 2019
"Thank God for this garden. Without the wheelchair training area, without patients being able to feel a camber and drop kerb and learn how to handle these, they would have no training at all. The garden is an absolute godsend. It makes so much difference being able to work with them out here. We are so lucky." - Kate Betts, Technical Instructor
June 28 2019
Warm sun on our skin,
Fresh air on our face,
Lifts spirits up high,
What a beautiful place,
The garden with colour,
Giving us space,
The plants and the flowers,
What a beautiful place,
The patients they love it,
Our saving grace,
Keeping us sane,
What a beautiful place.
Poem by NHS staff member, Helen Silver
11th May 2020
June 16 2019
“I feel better after hand therapy. I love planting things because it means a little part of me remains in the garden.”
June 13 2019
"You run such an amazing range of activities for patients and their families. It's absolutely wonderful and I don't know what we'd do without you."
Please see the articles and books below to read more about the ways in which gardens and gardening have been shown to have a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing.
• A. E. van den Berg (et al), ‘Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress’, Journal of Health Psychology (2010)
• C. Lowry (et al), ‘The Microbiota, Immunoregulation and Mental Health: Implications for Public Health’, Current Environmental Health Reports (2016)
• C. Wood (et al), Ecominds Effects on Mental Wellbeing: An Evaluation for MIND (2013)
• E. M. Sternberg, Healing Spaces (2010)
• G. Lambert (et al), Effect of Sunlight and Season on Serotonin Turnover in the Brain’, The Lancet (2002)
• H. B. Larsen, (et al), ‘Efficacy of Nature-Based Therapy for Individuals with Stress-Related Illnesses’, The British Journal of Psychiatry (2018)
• Horatio’s Garden Impact Report (2019) – Read More
• J. Barton (et al), ‘What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health?’, Environmental Science & Technology (2010)
• J. Roe (et al), ‘Green Space and Stress: Evidence from Cortisol Measures in Deprived Urban Communities’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2013)
• King’s Fund Report, Gardens and Health: Implications for Policy and Practice (2018) – Read More
• K. Lambert (et al), ‘Natural-Enriched Environments lead to Enhanced Environmental Engagement and Altered Neurobiological Resilience’, Neuroscience (2016)
• K. G. Lambert (et al), ‘Brains in the City: Neurobiological Effects of Urbanization’, Neuroscience & Behavioural Reviews (2015)
• Lord Nigel Crisp, Health is Made At Home: Building a Healthy and Health-Creating Society (2020) – Read More
• L. Keniger (et al), ‘What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature?’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2013)
• M. van den Bosch & W. Bird, Oxford Textbook of Nature and Public Health: The Role of Nature in Improving the Health of a Population (2018)
• National Garden Scheme, Gardens and Coronavirus 2020: The Importance of Gardens and Outdoor Spaces during Lockdown (2020) – Read More
• R. A. Fuller, ‘Psychological Benefits of Greenspace Increase with Biodiversity’, Biology Letters (2007)
• R. S. Ulrich, ‘Natural versus Urban Scenes: Some Psycho-Physiological Effects’, Environmental Behaviour (1981)
• R. S. Ulrich (et al), ‘Stress Recovery during Exposure to Natural and Urban Environments’, Journal of Environmental Psychology (1991)
• Sue Stuart-Smith, The Well Gardened Mind: Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World (2020) – Read More
• T, Hartig (et al), ‘Green Space, Psychological Restoration and Health Inequality’, The Lancet (2008)
• V. F. Gladwell (et al), ‘The Effects of Views of Nature on Autonomic Control’, European Journal of Applied Physiology (2012)