New hospital garden is opened

New hospital garden is opened

A hospital garden for people with dementia – which was designed by a Writtle University College alumna – has been unveiled.

Tamae Isomura, who graduated with a Masters in Garden Design from Writtle in 2012, designed the garden at Broomfield Hospital, near Chelmsford, to evoke comforting childhood memories of woodland.

After a major fundraising drive by the hospital’s charity, the ‘Live-Well Garden’ has been built in a courtyard, and was officially opened at a ceremony on Saturday, November 18.

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NHS England has highlighted the project as best practice of dementia care as it provides people with a therapeutic environment.

Tamae, who came from Japan to study at Writtle and now lives in Chelmsford, explained: “The design is a ‘woodland memory garden’. The idea was for it to be part of reminiscence therapy for people with dementia, providing comfort by reminding them of their experience of woodland, particularly in childhood.

“The design features a circular route so people will not be stressed by the trail ending. This has a wheelchair and walking frame-friendly surface and connects different areas for quiet sitting, activities or socialising. There are various features in each area to provide landmarks for people to walk around. All features and planting were selected to be familiar to people with dementia so they can be reminded of their own garden.

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“The woodland planting suits the shady and dry courtyard with the muted colours having a calming effect on people with dementia, who may sometimes feel agitated. This is complemented by vibrantly coloured planting, which will be planted through horticultural activities with patients.”

Tamae worked with Mid Essex Hospitals NHS Trust as a sustainability project co-ordinator, delivering community garden projects, a woodland conservation project, and other healing garden projects in the hospital grounds. Now working as a landscape architect for another organisation, she helped with the implementation of the garden project on a voluntary basis.

Her interest in the connection between health and horticulture was sparked from her time at Writtle.

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“I learned environmental psychology and restorative landscape theory at Writtle on the very first day of my course,” she said. “It opened my horizons to exploring how garden design can influence our health and wellbeing. I became interested in therapeutic landscapes, especially after the great earthquake in Japan in 2011.

“To be appointed to design one of the first dementia-friendly gardens in Essex was a fantastic opportunity. It has been great experience for me as a therapeutic garden designer to find out about the needs of a hospital landscape not only from patients but also from their families and hospital staff. It was eye-opening to witness how a high-quality garden can be achieved at an NHS hospital where funding and resources are limited.”

Elmarie Swanepoel, estates and facilities site manager at Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, said: “We are keen to provide a high-quality environment for people with dementia while they are in hospital. The health benefits of spending time in therapeutic, outside environments are well documented and we are thrilled to be able to open this beautiful garden.”

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This is the second garden design by a Writtle University College student to be built at Broomfield Hospital.

Yvonne Carter, charities manager at the hospital, said: “I would like to offer a big, big thank you to our local community for supporting our appeal to create this second dementia-friendly garden. Our charity has been overwhelmed by the help and support from an army of volunteers and fundraisers who have made it possible to create this relaxing and calming outdoor space for people in hospital. It’s among one of many projects that would not have been possible without the generous support of local people, so we are immensely grateful to everyone involved.”

Pictured above: a computer image of the garden design, courtesy of Tamae Isomura

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Steve Ott
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