The sun was shining this week as we were warmly welcomed to the Spinal Cord Injuries Unit (SCIU) at Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast for the first Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland Design Consultation Day!
As some of you will know, earlier this year, we announced our plans to create the charity’s seventh stunning sanctuary, which we’ll be embarking on with the support of the brilliant Belfast Health & Social Care Trust team and the hospital charity.
Since we first approached the Trust with our plans for the project, everyone has passionately embraced Horatio’s Garden. The enthusiasm could be felt from the moment we arrived and it was a real joy to spend the day hearing more about people’s ideas for the garden.
Among the current and former patients who safely gathered for the consultation were a whole host of NHS staff members, including Mr Peter McNaney, CBE, Chairman of Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Suzanne Maguire, Lead Consultant at the SCIU, Joyce Shaw, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust Service Manager for Neurorehabilitation, an excellent team from the Estates Department and many more, including the Matron of the SCIU, who aptly has a great personal love for gardens and gardening.
The atmosphere was one of extraordinary positivity, which was most certainly encouraged by eight-time RHS Chelsea Gold Medal winner, Andy Sturgeon, who will be designing the garden.
Andy took great care to ensure he spent time talking to everyone. With each conversation he gained a greater understanding not only of each person’s story, but of the elements they felt were important to consider when designing the garden. Everyone shared their thoughts and hopes for the look and feel of the garden, which will undoubtedly inspire Andy as he begins to create his concept designs. He plans to make a start on these shortly, with the intention of sharing them with everyone and returning to Belfast for another consultation day later this summer.
The SCIU has a total of 15 beds and serves patients from across the entirety of Northern Ireland, therefore the horticultural haven will be a vital oasis for people who are facing long stays in hospital far from home. There are also eight additional beds for lower limb amputees, who will also be able to spend time in Horatio’s Garden whenever they wish.
The site itself, as you’ll see below, is currently a flat, grassy area spanning a space between two different areas of the spinal centre. With a view to the hills visible on the horizon, Andy intends to make much more the hospital’s natural surroundings, whilst there are tentative plans to plant many trees to create a subtle green threshold between the garden and the ward.
Additionally, there are plans too to fill a smaller area close to the bay wards with trees, shrubs and all manner of colourful planting, transforming patients’ current view of the car park into one that is both calming and inspirational.
With the encouraging day coming to a close, Founder & Chair of Trustees, Dr Olivia Chapple, shared her appreciation for each and every person’s contribution and her feeling that the garden would most certainly reflect the extraordinary spirit of all those at the hospital.
As a testament to people’s excitement, already staff on the ward have begun to think about all the fundraising events they can hold to support the capital appeal, whilst everyone echoed Chairman Mr Peter McNaney’s sentiment of ‘just tell us what we need to do help and we’ll do it’.
We’re very much looking forward to returning to the Spinal Cord Injuries Unit later this year and will be sure to share many more updates about Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland, our seventh sanctuary, over the coming months.