An unused and overgrown space has been transformed into a therapy garden for patients at Basildon Mental Health Unit.
The Occupational Therapy team at the unit run by the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) worked with a green-fingered volunteer to create a garden for patients to look after and visit.
Norman, who has been a volunteer with the trust for 18 months, sacrificed his time to turn the garden in the grounds of Basildon Hospital into a calming environment in which patients can relax and take part in therapy sessions.
The garden is now home to raised flower beds, bird baths, windmills, a picnic bench, shed and a host of shrubs, flowers and fruit and vegetable plants.
Jacqui Sullivan, occupational therapy clinical lead, and her team now regularly use the garden in therapy sessions and are encouraging patients to take responsibility for watering and tending to the plants.
Carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, beetroot, parsnips and strawberries grown in the garden are also used in healthy lifestyle and cookery sessions.
Jacqui said: “There are real therapeutic benefits to the garden space. As well as encouraging patients to take on responsibility for watering the plants, it is also provides a quiet and calm environment for patients to come and sit.
“The garden has helped provoke a sense of positivity in patients, particularly those who already had or are now developing an interest in gardening. Being part of something like this helps them realise they can achieve when they leave us and these interests don’t have to stop. Those who are interested in keeping up gardening as a hobby when they leave us are referred to community gardening groups where they can continue to develop their skills.”
Norman now visits the garden once a week where possible.
He said: “It feels good to give something back to the NHS, especially when I see patients using and getting involved in the garden,” he said.
A patient who regularly visits the garden said: “The garden is definitely of benefit to us. It’s a calm and relaxing place to be and it’s nice to sit and enjoy the colours, scents and smells.”
Another added: “Gardening is good therapy. I come here often to water the plants and enjoy the tranquillity of the garden space.”