Another month of 2020 has passed in the blink of an eye, which means we have more stories for you from each of our beautiful gardens around the UK.

Whilst lots of you reading this will know how important outdoor spaces are for everyone’s health and wellbeing, this year has truly placed the value of nature at the forefront of our collective consciousness. Just as your gardens, local parks, allotments and window boxes will have brought a little joy to your life, Horatio’s Garden has been there to do the same for patients and NHS staff.

To read the latest news from Salisbury, Stoke Mandeville and Oswestry, please click the respective links.

We’ve all grown accustomed to hearing lots of remarkable stories during the Coronavirus crisis and one of the most incredible tales of all comes from Andrew Rodger, a patient of the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit until recently.

NHS staff and indeed Head Gardener Sallie Sillars have come to know Andrew well over the past few months, as he has been spending time in both the centre and Horatio’s Garden Scotland since January. He was admitted to the spinal centre after a fall and whilst in hospital unfortunately tested positive for Covid-19. He was unwell for over seven weeks, but has now overcome both Coronavirus and has successfully completed his rehabilitation, so has been able to return home to his family.

Amazingly, Andrew also celebrated his 90th birthday whilst in the spinal centre, with all the wonderful QENSIU staff going to great lengths to make it extra special. Whilst we loved seeing Andrew in the garden, we are thrilled that he is now once again spending time at home with his loved ones and we hope that they all had the chance to enjoy some belated birthday celebrations! 

As this story shows, all the NHS staff in the spinal centre are doing fantastic work and it’s been lovely to see them taking a well-deserved break in Horatio’s Garden too. Head Gardener Sallie recently ran a voluntary Health & Wellbeing Gardening Day for NHS staff, which was enjoyed by Michelle, Elaine, Lauren, Karen and her son, volunteer Christopher, and plans are in place to host another day for those who couldn’t make it soon.

Patients have been making the most of all that the garden has to offer too, taking a particular liking to the strawberries thriving in various planters. The balmy 28°C temperatures encouraged lots of patients to venture outside, whilst it also brought out a playful streak that led to plenty of people pinching produce from the flower beds – just as we and nature intended!

There’s also been a real sense of community flourishing both within and beyond the garden, especially on the part of Sandra Rankin, Mum of Lead Occupational Therapist, Michelle Rankin. She began painting these marvellous pebble creatures to inspire patients in hand therapy sessions, but before long word spread and everyone, staff and volunteers included, decided they wanted one.

Sandra’s been painting the pebbles as a way of keeping busy in lockdown, so she was only too happy to create 17 more creatures for a silent auction that she decided should raise money for the charity. We were really touched by both Sandra and Michelle’s kindness and they’re hoping to hold another pebble sale later this year too.

We’re really looking forward to welcoming a few of our volunteers safely back to the garden over the next few weeks to help with both gardening and supporting patients. As we are now sadly saying farewell to WRAGS trainee, Chelsea Lowe, their support will be more vital than ever in a garden that has proven to be a lifeline for patients. As Chelsea writes in a brilliant piece she wrote marking the end of her year-long placement with us:

“I am very proud to be able to contribute to such an invaluable place at such an unprecedented time. With visitors not allowed on the wards and anxiety running high, the garden’s role as a sanctuary for staff and patients is even more crucial. It provides much-needed space for reflection and distancing, it is a buffer to the clinical environment, now even more fraught, and it marks time in a gentle and beautiful way.”