It’s been truly wonderful to see our gardens once again being used as a place to safely welcome patients’ loved ones, particularly over the past Bank Holiday weekend.
With the sun shining for the most part, many families and friends enjoyed reuniting at a safe social distance, chatting for many hours and relishing the recent return of plenty of delicious homemade cake.
Whilst the atmosphere in every garden has been buzzing with warmth and familiarity, it was especially lovely to be able to welcome children from the paediatric ward back into the main garden in Stoke Mandeville. Together with their families, lots of children ventured outside to play with ducks and nets on the pond, simultaneously bringing cheer to everyone spending time in the sanctuary.
Beyond visiting hours, the gardens remain a hive of activity and now that restrictions have started to ease, patients have gratefully enjoyed their first experience of group gardening activities alongside their continued 1:1 sessions with our Head Gardeners.
Across the country, seed sowing and potting on have been the main activities in patients’ personal horticultural workshops, given that May is the prime time for such seasonal pursuits. As for the groups, Head Gardener Imogen’s Mindfulness in Nature gathering in Horatio’s Garden Midlands has once again predictably soared in popularity! Just prior to the weekend, patients created beautiful mandalas to celebrate the spring colours taking over the garden, whilst their ephemeral pieces also reminded everyone of the value of slowing down and taking the time to really notice the world around you.
Meanwhile, Head Gardener Sallie’s Floral Art sessions in Horatio’s Garden Scotland have been similarly successful, with the hospital’s Occupational Therapists supporting patients in some sessions as the activity is ideal for improving people’s hand function. In small, safe groups, everyone explored colour, texture and shape, which inspired one patient to share a few stories from her beekeeping days. Naturally, the group listened in rapture and discovered a host of little–known facts!
It’s been fantastic to gradually welcome more of our volunteers back to the gardens too and we’re also delighted to share that Annabel Turner, who’s already been working wonders, has joined the team as our new Garden Administrator in Horatio’s Garden South West.
The stars seemed aligned with everything coming together just in time for the Bank Holiday weekend, which was celebrated in each garden where restrictions would allow.
There was a very special start to the break in Horatio’s Garden Midlands in particular, as Head Gardener Imogen was marking a rather special birthday! Garden Administrator Gemma and a bijou gathering of volunteers put together an amazing surprise birthday party, complete with many thoughtful gifts and cards, as well as a truly phenomenal cake made in honour of the occasion by a talented local baker. Becky Warren took a brief break to join in with the fun too, whilst patients, NHS staff and all of us here at Horatio’s Garden also wished Imogen many happy returns!
The birthday theme then continued in Horatio’s Garden Midlands, with patient Arthur being the next person to toast the passing of another year! Naturally the occasion was marked with another delectable cake, much merriment and a spot of spring gardening, which he’s come to love since discovering the horticultural haven.
Families continued to reunite on Saturday and Sunday, before everyone in Horatio’s Garden London & South East and everyone in Horatio’s Garden South West were treated to two fabulous performances.
In London, Blues, Americana & Country singer-songwriter, Isobel Thatcher, played her original music in the garden, with plenty of patients outside listening and staff appreciating her soft sound immensely too. Isobel shared that the garden was “a beautiful, calm space and a pleasure to play in”, whilst audience comments included “I really enjoyed that”, “she sang beautifully and I loved every minute”, and “it was so good to hear some live music!”
Similarly over in the South West, acoustic singer-songwriter, Jim Chorley, performed in what turned out to be his first live show since lockdown restrictions were instigated last March. He took patients and staff alike through a warm, comforting set and afterwards said “it was a joy to be back out playing my songs for an appreciative, attentive audience.” Everyone was just as thrilled as we were to see music make a triumphant reappearance in the garden and we were equally pleased that the rain held off until the occasion was over!
We are so grateful to everyone who made the Bank Holiday weekend in Horatio’s Garden so memorable and hope that we’ll be holding many more events, workshops and sessions just like these in the not-too-distant future.