A garden charity that provides inspiration and comfort to spinal injury patients has been helped to stay open by a Wiltshire Community Foundation grant. Horatio’s Garden at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Injury Centre at Salisbury District Hospital, the county’s only spinal injury centre, has been awarded £4,098 from the Swindon and Wiltshire Coronavirus Response Fund to help pay the salary of head gardener Stephen Hackett.
The fund now stands at more than £600,000 and has distributed more than £350,000 to 100 groups.
The charity, which needs to raise £60,000 a year to stay open, has been unable to hold fundraising events, particularly at this week’s cancelled Chelsea Flower Show.
Director of Fundraising Bethan Cummings said not having its regular showcase stand at the world famous show has been a huge blow. “It is always a massively important week for us, partly for profile as we have a stand in the avenue where people walk round but also we sell about £4,000 worth lot of merchandise a day,” she said. “We also sign a lot of new people up as friends, where they can make monthly or annual donation.
“We make a lot of new connections at the show too with trusts and foundations who go on to become donors. We actually met Princess Eugenie our royal patron there too after she saw us there and got really engaged with what we do.”
The grant means Mr Hackett won’t have to be furloughed and the garden continue to benefit patients at the county’s only spinal centre. “We are doing all we can at the moment to stay open so the grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation is an enormous help,” said Mrs Cummings.
“We’ve spoken to the NHS trust and they’ve agreed Stephen can go in and make sure the gardens are safe and thriving. In this warm weather he is making sure the plants don’t die because otherwise it could be a really depressing place and it should be a really inspiring and beautiful place.
“Just keeping the garden watered and alive is a monumental task and if the gardener hadn’t been able to come in we would have really struggled and had to close the garden at some stage because it gets out of hand and unmanageable and then it gets unsafe.”
She said the garden, whose raised beds and wide paths allow for beds to be wheeled out as well as wheelchairs to move round smoothly, is a vital part of patients’ recovery and an aid to mental wellbeing.
“Our beneficiaries are really isolated at the minute. People with spinal injuries are in a vulnerable group, can’t get out and they have no visitors,” she said. ”Our gardens are really the only place they have to go to get away from the ward, take some time out and get some fresh air.”
The garden, which opened in 2012, has high structural plants so that anyone who has to lie flat can look up and see them. There are raised beds with lots of edible plants so that the beneficiaries can pick their own salad leaves or tomatoes for lunch
Mrs Cummings said: “All the feedback we are getting from nursing staff is that they just desperately want the gardens to stay open as it is the only place patients can go outside. Just being wheeled out in your bed into the garden for half an hour can make such a difference to someone who otherwise would have just stared at the four walls of a ward all day.”
Besides patients from all over Wiltshire and Swindon, the garden is also providing a haven for NHS staff. “All the staff are using it as well, which is great because it somewhere for them to pause and have a moment’s breath,” said Mrs Cummings. ”They are all saying what a huge difference it makes to them.”
To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.