Significant funding sows the seeds for renovation of hospital gardens

A hospital in Perth has secured significant funding for a dementia-friendly garden project. In partnership with the Tayside Health Fund, NHS Tayside’s Charity, we're supporting residents to enjoy physical activity and connect with nature.

Two gardens enjoy by three wards will undergo redesign to support to encourage a connection to nature.

Murray Royal Hospital in Perth, which specialises in mental health and dementia care, was recently awarded £115,000 from Tayside Health Fund, NHS Tayside’s Charity, in addition to £40,000 awarded through our Walking for Health team. The funding will support the rejuvenation of two garden areas on the hospital grounds. The garden will enhance the shared spaces at the Garry and Tummel Ward, as well as the garden at the Leven Ward.

In partnership with landscape architect Marion Preez of Urban Pioneers, who drafted the initial concept drawings of the garden, as well as the firm Better Company, the spaces will be redesigned to integrate nature while providing patients with space to walk and move more.

It’s hoped the project will create a unique sensory experience, while being an inclusive, accessible, nurturing, and welcoming environment for all individuals, including patients, staff and families affected by dementia.

Kayleigh Lytham, our Dementia Friendly Development Officer, said:

“Paths for All are delighted to be leading this project alongside our expert partners to enhance both gardens and create more usable and meaningful green space.

Creating a more inclusive and accessible outdoor environment for patients, visitors and staff will provide opportunities to improve wellbeing through walking, physical activity and connecting with nature.

This project will encourage all users to access the outdoors and benefit from the associated health benefits, which can contribute to patient recovery.

The redesigned shared space will serve as a bridge between nature and individuals, helping patients to foster a deeper connection with the environment.

The garden will also provide Strength and Balance areas, encouraging and supporting physical activity as an integral component of health, wellbeing, care, rehabilitation, and recovery.

A shared garden with planters and benches on a hospital ground.

Planned improvements encompass landscaping and additional seating areas, the development of path networks, and the installation of playful and poetic artworks by our esteemed artist-in-residence, Alec Finlay.

Alec’s artwork will feature what he calls ‘poem-objects’ – ordinary garden tools with poems added, including a suite of traditional watering cans with words inspired by Perthshire poet and gardener, GF Dutton. The artworks are intended to be used, to encourage people to interact with nature and gardening.

Alec Finlay said,

As we age, it becomes clear that memory, remembering, and names, are closely connected to our bodies and the things we do, or have done. Gardening is the perfect example, handling tools, gently caring for plants, tending nature, are playful and nurturing ways to bring people back into connection with the seasons, colours, and connect them with their own past experiences.

They can become carers, as well as the cared for, which helps query the roles we assign to people in hospital, encouraging a sense of agency and creative recuperation. Tools are also a wonderful way to connect people with shared tasks, and give them a connection to the seasons.”

By transforming the shared garden spaces into dementia-friendly environments, the hospital aims to create therapeutic spaces that offer solace, stimulation, and a sense of tranquillity to those affected by this condition.

Clinical and Professional Team Manager, Shelly Milligan from Murray Royal Hospital said:

Plans for the sensory garden have been specifically designed to provide patients with a relaxing space where they can connect with nature, relax and take part in activities that will help them improve both their physical and mental well-being.

We also wanted the area to provide a relaxing space for families and carers to spend quality time with their loved ones.

On behalf of the Older Peoples Service at Murray Royal Hospital we want to say a huge thank you to Kayleigh, Paths for All, Tayside Health Fund and to the artists/designers involved in this wonderful project.”

Shelley McCarthy, Charity Chief Officer for Tayside Health Fund, NHS Taysides Charity said

Dementia has been a national priority in Scotland since 2007 with a focus on person-centred treatment in all settings.

Tayside Health Fund are delighted to be supporting such an innovative project at Murray Royal Hospital.”

Work has already commenced on the garden with a view to completion in late summer.