Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust provides health and wellbeing services for a population of around 1.5 million people in Northwest England. The trust's provisions include Guild Lodge - a medium-secure mental health care hospital for men and women. This hospital is located in the grounds of Guild Park, about four miles north of Preston in Lancashire. Guild Park has lovely, open green spaces which service users can enjoy, as well as being accessible to the local community and schoolchildren on a rota basis.
Lancashire Care joined the NHS Forest in 2013 when they launched their 'Grow Your Own' project at Guild Park. This horticultural project enables people at the hospital to grow plants from seed, but its impact is far wider than providing a simple gardening facility. Grow Your Own also enables people recovering from mental health issues to work together, or to work independently, at their own pace. The gardening area is peaceful and secluded, which means that people who are living in the hospital can access a space that feels more like an allotment garden, rather than a secure health unit, which is very beneficial for people who are at a stge in their recovery where they are about to move back into living independently outside the hospital.
There are polytunnels at the site, and the project also features sculptures built from plant pots, a herb ‘fountain’ of raised beds built from bricks, and a wishing tree which is frequently festooned with paper carrying the hopes written by the project participants. People involved in the scheme have cultivated hundreds of plants, with many of the vegetables and herbs being provided to the hospital kitchen at 20% below the standard wholesale cost of organic produce. Some produce is also sold on to community members or donated to a foodbank so that more people have access to fresh, good quality food.
To mark the 2014 NHS Sustainability Day, the trust held a series of roadshows to encourage NHS sustainability champions to sign up and to showcase some of the ideas from staff and patients across the trust. The roadshows took in the local HQ at Sceptre Point, Ribbleton Hospital and Guild Lodge and resulted in 10 new sustainability champions coming forward as Green Ambassadors in their workplaces. Many other attendees made green pledges – ranging from composting tea bags to switching to an electric vehicle!
The Grow Your Own team provided staff with kitchen seed kits so that they could grow plants indoors, as well as bags of wildflower seeds (courtesy of Friends of the Earth) so that areas across the trust can be brightened up with flowers. They also continued to link with the NHS Forest by allocating 300 trees to be planted in 2014 which were sponsored by the Great Outdoor Gym Company, plus a further 65 trees supported by other funds, making a total of 365 trees to be planted across 2014 – one for every day of the year!
Two service users at Guild Lodge planted two of these trees for NHS Sustainability Day 2014, and another service user planted troughs of herbs. One of the people planting the trees summed up the NHS Forest by saying, "Mother Nature helps us, so now we must help Mother Nature." Two other Guild Park service users have cleared and planted small patches of land to form vegetable and herb gardens within the hospital grounds as part of the 14:14 campaign, which aims to encourage NHS Trusts across England to plant up to 14 square metres of land in 2014 in which fresh produce can be grown and developed.
Throughout the year, several local schools, including a special school, also use the polytunnels and the outdoor space at Guild Park to spark the imagination of their pupils. The schoolchildren learn about the natural growing cycle, as well as broader issues relating to conserving the environment and personal health matters such as how fresh food can help them to stay healthy. They take part in activities such as a competition to grow the tallest sunflower, as well as celebratory events at the Guild Park site. Some of these are outlined below in the 2013 section of this page.
Lancashire Care have won an NHS Forest award for their impressive achievements, as well as an NHS Sustainability Day Award as best community scheme. Perhaps the words of the participants express the value of this project best of all:
"It's very therapeutic ... "
"Team work is a big part of it ... "
"I benefit from the exercise and fresh air ..."
"I feel I have gained confidence ..."
"The health benefits of being outdoors can't be beaten ..."
"I get a sense of achievement ..."
"It keeps me focused ..."
"We are self-producing and eat what we grow ..."
Plans for 2014 involve supporting other green-fingered initiatives across the trust, such as planting a sensory garden for elderly patients at a local care home and establishing a copse featuring NHS Forest trees in the grounds of a dementia care hospital. They are also planning future sustainability roadshows to generate support for green healthcare amongst the trust staff and service users. At Guild Park, the planting is set to flourish, with the addition of a portacabin making the site accessible in all weathers and opening up opportunities for even greater involvement of the project participants.
In 2013, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust restored an orchard on site at Guild Park and held an apple harvest day as part of their gardening initatives to promote active lifestyles and more sustainable living. The event involve volunteers picking apples and distributing them to people in the Step Down Unit - a part of the hospital where service users are preparing to move onto independent living. Volunteers included staff, local residents, partner groups and campers from a local site. An apple juicer was provided so pickers were able to taste the produce too!
Earlier in the year, staff and service users from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust’s Specialised Services in partnership with the Property Services Department joined together as part of NHS Sustainability Day 2013 to celebrate the success of the project. The Mayor and Mayoress of Preston attended and officially opened the event at Guild Park.
Elizabeth Harrison, Project Lead at Lancashire Care said:
“I’m so proud of everyone that has been involved and made the project possible ... The project provides an opportunity for social interaction and also promotes healthy eating and living. Participants are given the opportunity to build their self-confidence and transferrable skills such as teamwork and recognised qualifications.”
“We are dedicated to providing a sustainable project with the purpose to grow our own fresh produce to be prepared and served in the Guild Lodge kitchen whilst benefiting the local wildlife and environment. The project has already been able to supply the Step Down Unit with local, seasonal and fresh vegetables along with suggested recipes."
“Research has showed that social interaction and activities such as gardening can have a positive effect on mental health and boost the moods of participants and by growing fresh fruit and vegetable the project also promotes healthy eating.”
Lancashire Care were runners up in the NHS Forest 2014 Awards category for most number of trees planted.
In 2015/6 Lancashire Care created an area of willow woodland on their Guild Park site, surrounding their pond. The trees were generously donated by the Great Outdoor Gym Company. For every piece of gym equipment sold since 2014, they sponsored an NHS Forest tree.
“The benefits of creating woodland on our site are endless, from encouraging walking in a natural setting and giving us the opportunity to work closer with our partners, staff, volunteers, patients and local communities. As an organisation we place high value on the NHS Forest’s and The Great Outdoor Gym Company’s continued support and would like to thank you all for helping us achieve a life time legacy for the project at Lancashire Care.” Elizabeth Harrison, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust.
430 trees were planted in 2018 , sponsored by the Great Outdoor Gym Company to continue to regenerate the wildlife area on site. A further 388 TGOGC trees were planted in 2020.
In 2021, they planted 1,000 trees at Guild Lodge in Preston. Native trees were planted as part of the Grow Your Own project, now in its eighth year. This includes a woodland willow coppice, using the trees supplied by the NHS Forest from the Government's Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The coppice will provide opportunities for staff, service users and the local community to exercise, relax and connect with nature. This includes educational displays, a walking path, and seating.
The Trust has also invested in Virtual Reality technology to provide a virtual experience of the woodland for service users who are unable to access the woods themselves; using this technology, people can experience the woodland in a virtual environment even if they can’t physically be on the site. One volunteer involved in tree planting commented: “We are so proud to be part of the NHS forest and the donation this year means we can create a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy and learn all about the different species, birds and insects that depend on our trees for protection and survival.”
This sentiment was echoed by a service user, who said: “Having all these trees to plant gives me a sense of belonging and feeling needed. It means so much to me, I will learn so much from the tree planting and then watching them grow and mature into full grown trees will be amazing. Thank you NHS Forest for the opportunity to create a meaningful area.”