Simon Cramp - Trustee

 A Note from Simon Cramp – Town Planner, After surviving a succession of strokes, in autumn 2016, my mother-in-law Pauline, died peacefully at home.  We’d made a bed for her downstairs and arranged it so that she had sight of the garden that she loved. The trees and flowers would have been one of the last things she saw.  It might have been different.

Four days before, my wife and brother-in-law had spent the night curled up on the floor of a small room in a ward at the Hampshire Royal County Hospital. They wanted to be close to their mother as the end of her life drew near.   Without exception, the hospital staff were sympathetic and caring but this was not where anyone wanted Pauline to spend her remaining hours.  That’s when the palliative care team stepped in.

They helped us to bring Pauline home.  They put a plan in place to ease her pain, and arranged for visits from their team of specialist end of life nurses.  For the next few days, we lived our lives around Pauline, sharing the ordinary and everyday but making each hour as special as we could until the end.  

Pauline loved her garden.  She tended and cared for it and in return it gave her joy, comfort and peace.  I know that Pauline would have wholeheartedly supported Winchester Hospice, and it’s garden.  It’s a great privilege therefore for me to be involved in developing the hospice and, in particular, bringing life to a garden for patients, staff and visitors to enjoy seeing and being.    

My wife and I met when we were both studying to be landscape architects.  We shared our love of plants and gardens with Pauline, and also a deep sense that spending time with nature was good for the spirit and soul.   One of the National Trust’s founders, Octavia Hill, put it like this: ‘the need of quiet, the need of air, and I believe the sight of sky and of things growing, seem human needs common to all men.’  This belief is backed up by science.

I remember first hearing in the early 1980’s about a study conducted by an American environmental psychologist, Roger Ulrich, that clearly demonstrated the benefits to hospital patients’ health and wellbeing of seeing a garden from their bedside window.  Later research showed that seeing and being in nature was also just as good for patients, staff and visitors, no matter what their age or where they were in the course of their life. That’s why our countryside, parks, gardens, and other green spaces have sometimes been referred to as ‘the natural health service’ (Faculty of Public Health 2010).    

In 2015, the National Gardens Scheme commissioned The Kings Fund to write an independent report on the benefits of gardens and gardening on health.  The report demonstrated the important place of gardening in the health and care system.  After all, horticultural therapy has long been part of mainstream health policy and practice.

Judith Charmer