Bethlem Garden puts patients in touch with nature

Through a Maudsley Charity Grant, the Occupational Therapy (OT) Garden at Bethlem Royal Hospital is able to provide gardening sessions to patients, giving them time off the ward in a supported environment.

The project enables patients and staff to connect with nature, grow vegetables and engage with wildlife. There has been an OT garden on site in some form since the hospital moved here in 1930.

The extensive grounds mean there will always be opportunities to grow vegetables, flowers and explore wildlife across the hospital’s 250-acre site. Concealed behind a brick wall in a corner of the hospital the OT garden is a busy oasis.

Supported by money donated by the Maudsley Charity, Head Occupational Therapist, Peter O’Hare is able to employ staff and volunteers to run weekly gardening sessions for hospital inpatients. In these sessions, the team work with patients to cultivate the space and grow vegetables. Many of the patients will have a long association with OT – some patients are at the hospital for several years.

Bethlem Men's Shed
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Garden supports different routes to recovery

These important services provide patients with opportunities to explore, learn, develop, which plays a major part in aiding their recovery. The diversity of services provided at Bethlem means that the garden supports recovery in many different ways.

The hospital provides services to people of all ages and offers specialist treatment for a range of conditions including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and eating disorders. The garden provides a space for these patients to engage with nature and food in a safe environment.


‘It makes a difference to get off the ward’

Service user John says, ‘It’s nice to have the opportunity to get off the ward and experience different things – it really makes a difference. Here we’re working as part of a team negotiating and planning. These skills will help me in the future and I will put them on my CV. The garden takes me away from the mundane things in life, it inspires me, it encourages me.’

Maudsley Charity funding in OT services has also enabled the creation of Bethlem Men’s Shed, part of the international Men’s Shed movement which creates spaces for men to meet, reducing loneliness and isolation – and helping them to have fun.