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Living, Exteriors

Horatio’s Gardens

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Before his appalling and untimely death on a school trip to Svalbard in 2014, Horatio Chapple had wanted to train as a doctor. Whilst volunteering at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury during school holidays, he noticed the lack of outdoor space for patients with spinal injuries and their families to use whilst they endured the long, hard months of ongoing treatment. Encouraged by his parents, Dr Olivia Chapple and David Chapple, a spinal surgeon at Salisbury District Hospital, Horatio took the first steps in creating a garden space. He started by asking the patients exactly what they would like to be included and how they felt the garden should look when completed.

Sadly, Horatio was tragically killed just a few months later. Following an outpouring of love and support, donations for his garden, to be created by award-winning six times Chelsea Gold Medal winner Cleve West, flooded in. Having a friend who was a patient at the Salisbury spinal centre, Cleve understood the positive impact the garden would have on the lives of those who used it. After undertaking considerable research building upon Horatio’s original idea, the designs for the new garden were formulated and the first garden opened in September 2012.

Over the years, Horatio’s legacy has continued to grow, and the charity now has six gardens around the country, with two further gardens coming soon; all located at specialist spinal units and all of which have been designed by award-winning garden designers. These stunning sanctuaries provide a place for patients and their families and friends when facing long stays in NHS hospitals. Somewhere to enjoy being outdoors and – where practical to do so – visitors get involved in caring for the gardens. All six of Horatio’s Gardens are pioneering, innovative places, built to exceptional standards and cared for by outstanding and enthusiastic employees, trustees and volunteers. Collectively, they champion the benefits that gardens bring in restoring health.

With an inpatient capacity of 106 adult patients and nine additional adolescent and paediatric beds, Stoke Mandeville spinal centre is the largest and oldest in the UK. Patients are brought to the centre from across the British Isles but mostly from the South and Home Counties. Some six years after Horatio’s passing, in 2018 the garden at the National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandeville opened. Following in the tradition of inviting top, award-winning designers to create their gardens, the charity asked RHS Chelsea Gold Medal winner and BBC gardening personality Joe Swift to design the garden at Stoke Mandeville. Together with input from Owen Hemmings from the Robert Lombardelli Partnership, Joe created a place of natural beauty and repose beyond the spinal centre, giving patients and their loved ones an accessible space in which to retreat.

Head Gardener Amy Moffett nurtures the garden, holding regular horticultural therapy sessions with patients joining in and collaborating with her on a 1:1 basis. Popular pursuits in spring include seed sowing and potting on and the patients enjoy watching the plants develop through the year. Amy’s team includes a part-time Garden Administrator and a group of brilliant volunteers who not only help to look after the garden, but also run creative activities for patients, including the popular Poetry and Patisseries group.

Other Horatio’s Gardens are located in Stanmore (Tom Stuart-Smith); Glasgow, (James Alexander-Sinclair); Cardiff (Sarah Price) and Oswestry (Bunny Guinness). The charity’s seventh garden will be the work of Andy Sturgeon, located in Belfast, whilst the eighth will be in Sheffield, brought to life by Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg of Harris Bug Studios.

Horatio’s Gardens provide so many with pleasure and inspirational motivation. The charity needs to raise over £450,000 each year to cover all the gardens’ ongoing running costs. Donations and fundraising activities are always gratefully received. To find out more and help keep Horatio Chapple’s dream alive and to help the charity achieve its ambitious target to have eleven gardens at the spinal injury centres nationwide, please visit horatiosgarden.org.uk.

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