Professional photographer Hilary Stock’s initial workshops came to an end in Horatio’s Garden South West just before Christmas, marking the culmination of an absolutely incredible few weeks in the sanctuary.

Throughout the sessions held in the garden, lots of patients joined Hilary to take photos of a professional quality for the first time, whilst others rediscovered their long lost passion for the creative pursuit. As the weeks passed by, Hilary remained a wonderful, knowledgeable and engaging presence in the garden, sharing her wisdom regarding both using digital cameras and iPhone cameras to their full extent; needless to say, everyone was pleasantly surprised to discover just how easy it is to do a lot with the latter in particular!

Among the many people popping in and out of the workshops each week were two especially keen patients, Barry and Carrie, who attended every session they possibly could. Both grew in confidence considerably across the course of the weekly workshops, whilst they also gathered new skills, techniques and top tips from Hilary.

As a once passionate photographer, Barry was thrilled to be given the opportunity to take pictures in the garden, falling in love with photography all over again. His enthusiasm for the art is palpable in his pictures and indeed, it was so strong that he’s now overcome his initial reluctance to wholeheartedly embrace Instagram, where he’s begun showcasing his fantastic photos to his followers!

Meanwhile, Carrie enjoyed her sessions with Hilary to such a degree that she now plans to embark upon a career as a professional photographer. With Hilary’s support and encouragement, Carrie’s natural talent has been increasing honed, something that will undoubtedly continue as she continues creating gorgeous photographic compositions.

Whilst she took many of her photos on her iPhone, she also worked with Hilary for hours at a time to master the art of using a digital camera, particularly one which was given by a friend of Hilary’s for her to use with people in the garden. Together, Hilary and her friend have since gifted the camera to Carrie to help her begin her next chapter; a present that, understandably, moved Carrie to tears.

Alongside the photographers, Hilary’s husband Jon could also be found in Horatio’s Garden South West on the final Friday before Christmas in his own creative capacity.

As a writer and author working under the name of J.S. Monroe, Jon attracted quite a throng throughout the day. Plenty of people stopped to ask him more about his work, whilst the session also prompted people to swap all sorts of stories of their own, many of them powerful and moving.

Jon Stock in Garden

The gathered group included one particular man, who was encouraged to visit the garden for the very first time in order to chat to Jon, something he appreciated immensely. He has since begun venturing to Horatio’s Garden regularly, attending other creative workshops including those held by artist Katy McIntyre Brown.

Katy’s weekly visits to the garden have proven equally popular, with both newly injured patients and those who have spent longer periods of time in the spinal centre continuing to regularly join her, painting alongside each other in quiet camaraderie.

Since the group resumed in the wake of the New Year, a huge range of paintings have been produced by various patients, all of whom have savoured plenty of volunteer-made cake in the midst of the workshop’s warm and welcoming atmosphere.

As Katy shared, it’s simply wonderful to see people who have never painted, or haven’t painted since school, creating such amazing pieces and enjoying art so much.

And in the words of one regular garden-goer to a first time visitor, “You just have to get yourself out of bed, even when you don’t want to, and come down here. There’s always something going on. It’s about expanding your horizons.”

We are so grateful to Hilary, Jon and Katy for lending us their time and for sharing that their hours in Horatio’s Garden South West have been, and indeed continue to be, utterly unique, rewarding and inspiring.