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.”
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.”
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.
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.
July 20 2021
"The garden is such a special place that brings joy to so many of us, patients and staff. It gives me a warm feeling inside and inspired me to feel good about myself, being surrounded by such wonderfulness. Whenever I am in the garden I feel truly bless and know that I am very fortunate."
May 10 2021
"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."
May 2 2021
"Thank you to all the staff and volunteers of Horatio's Garden. In my first six days of isolation, I had been told about the garden and garden room, but I could not have imagined how wonderful it would be. I love spending time there every afternoon and morning - it's like a good social club, somewhere we can all mix and chat with each other.
"It's been lovely doing some repotting in the greenhouse too. I've talked to the Head Gardener and all the volunteers in the garden, who have helped me to name some of the plants which I intend to get for my garden at home, especially the West Point Tulip, which was so stunning in late April!"
March 18 2021
"Most people can't believe it when they visit. Whenever my family and friends have come to see me, they love it here just as I do. It's so lovely to welcome them here and the pods in particular are a godsend. The garden has become the nucleus of the ward and it's the nice thing about being here. I've become friends with many people and outside you can just spend time with each other, learn from each other and discover how everyone's doing when it comes to navigating their injuries."
December 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
November 6 2020
"I highly recommend the craft sessions, especially to anyone for managing pain - it's a great pain diversion. I've loved learning new skills to take home with me and there are always friendly people waiting in the garden to welcome everyone."
October 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."
September 29 2020
"Horatio's Garden has been a fabulous sanctuary during my three month stay. The garden is amazing and so are all the volunteers. A simple chat (and cake!) makes so much difference. Thank you for all your help and support, for providing a place for us all out of the storm."
August 18 2020
"The garden has transformed his admissions for him and for us all as a family. He has loved planting, fishing for rubber ducks, painting a plant pot, making friends and just enjoying the beautiful garden and snacks in the garden room. He loves to be outside and to escape the confines of the ward is a wonderful thing for him."
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."
May 5 2020
"The garden has been invaluable. It has been a saviour to me in times of need and emotional moments. I've laughed, I've cried, I've bathed in sunshine and made many new friends, lots of whom I'll keep forever."
April 28 2020
"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."
April 15 2020
"I absolutely love this place and all the staff with it! It's been a place of solace and laughter mixed with escape and great conversation. Without the garden and everyone in it, all the chats I've had with other patients, my time here would have been very difficult."
March 15 2020
"Horatio's Garden is a haven for our patients and many of them seek solace here when the challenges of their spinal cord injury become overwhelming. Patients find comfort and distraction by talking with the garden's staff and volunteers, by participating in all the activities, such as crafting, birdwatching, gardening and so on. It allows them to feel the physical and psychological benefits of simply being outside. Staff from all disciplines spend time in the garden, either holding appointments with patients or simply as a place to unwind from the challenges of their working day. It is impossible to measure the value of Horatio's Garden to our spinal centre."
February 13 2020
"Gardening is good for your whole being. I find it therapeutic and certain movements have helped my hands. Each little movement, with seed sowing and so on, has helped my hands remember how to work. It helped me to get back the movements I've lost. Outside is like a medicine, a healing power. The garden has its own healing power. It makes you feel better in yourself."
January 2 2020
"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
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 (2020) – 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. Clarke, ‘Nature and Nowness Under Lockdown’, The Lancet (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)