THERE WERE three days of intensive gardening last week for the volunteers who gathered at Okehampton Hospital to give the outside space a makeover.

Over a dozen green-fingered volunteers gave a hand during the three-day gardening stint to give the roundabout, the flowerbeds by the entrance of the hospital and the staff garden a facelift as part of a green initiative led by the NHS Property Services (NHSPS).

With the support of the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the RSPB, NHS Property Services volunteers upgraded the flowerbeds with both summer and winter flowering plants to ensure colour all year round and planted blueberry bushes and crabapple tree in the staff garden. Okehampton’s Men in Sheds even came down to install two homemade bird boxes.

James Unwin, senior estates manager for NHS Property Services (NHSPS), said: “We are so pleased to be able to volunteer our time and pay for this project with support from Bow Garden and Aquatic Centre, and we value the RSPB for their expert guidance. NHSPS hopes the green spaces now warmly welcome everyone who uses this hospital.

“NHSPS is keen to do its bit for the planet – and, crucially, help create therapeutic and relaxing spaces for patients and staff to enjoy.”

The work has already received a lot of positive responses from patients and visited who have commented how lovely it is to see the gardens tidied up to hospital receptionists. Staff have given their thanks to the volunteers too, with some of the physiotherapists even cheekily offering massages to help with any aches and pains the gardeners have sustained while working.

The gardening project was carried out as part of the NHSPS’s green plan and organisers have worked closely with the RSPB’s green infrastructure champion Jane Taylor to ensure all plants are safe for hospital sites.

Mrs Taylor said: “It was such a fun three days – everyone pitched in together and the results speak for themselves. We have carefully selected plants which are nectar rich for the bees and have long flowering times for lots of colour and wow moments.

“Most importantly, we have tried to ensure there will be something flowering all year round, so even in the winter there will be plants for everyone to enjoy and brighten their day.

“A growing body of evidence indicates that individuals with a greater connection to nature experience improved mental wellbeing, greater vitality, and happiness, and are more satisfied with life. Research also shows that increasing your connection with nature can positively impact a range of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and depression.”

The RSPB has previously supported the Royal Devon at its Royal Devon & Exeter Wonford site with the creation of therapeutic gardens, including a bereavement garden and meadow planting.

The Okehampton Hospital gardening project is the first in a new RSPB initiative to improve community hospital gardens.

NHSPS is a government-owned company which exists to help the NHS look after its land as effectively as possible. NHSPS comprises over 3,000 properties with 7,000 tenants across England and with a total value of more than £3billion represents about 10 per cent of the entire NHS estate.

The Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust was established in April 2022, and stretches across northern, eastern and mid Devon, and has a workforce of over 15,000 staff, making it the largest employer in Devon. Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust provides healthcare to more than 615,000 people across Devon.

The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, which works to protect habitats, saving species, and helping to end the nature and climate emergency.