Aintree was established as a Fever Hospital in the first years of the 20th century. Built to treat Liverpudlians suffering from infectious and tropical diseases brought in by the city’s large seafaring population, its buildings were designed with plentiful windows and doors through which patients could engage with fresh air, sunlight and green spaces. Three farms around the periphery of the site produced food for patients and staff. The pig-keeping ended in 1961, but now an NHS allotment enables staff and local community members to grow vegetables and to learn about wildlife-friendly gardening techniques such as composting. In the 21st century, Aintree is again growing local food for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Aintree’s Fazakerley Bluebell Wood is a unique feature and a significant asset for bringing staff and patients closer to nature. This substantial, well-established woodland has walkways, a wetland reedbed, a stream, over 1,000 trees and countless bluebells that transform the ground into a blue haze every April. The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s Nature Recovery Ranger Fiona Megarrell is helping community volunteers look after the wood and encouraging people to explore this grand and peaceful natural retreat for the benefit of their physical health and mental wellbeing. In 2021, CSH began offering wellbeing in woodland courses to hospital staff. These teach methods for using the natural world to counter the stresses of modern life, supporting staff wellbeing during a particularly critical time.

A volunteer during a weekly woodland maintenance session at Aintree's bluebell woodland
A volunteer during a weekly woodland maintenance session at Aintree’s bluebell woodland. Photo: Fiona Megarrell / Centre for Sustainable Healthcare 2021. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).
Weekly healthy living bus shop at Aintree Hospital
Weekly healthy living bus shop at Aintree Hospital. Photo: Fiona Megarrell / Centre for Sustainable Healthcare 2021. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Outside the woodland, ‘No Mow May’ has shown spectacular results. After just a few weeks of letting the grass grow, dozens of marsh orchids started popping up amongst the oxeye daisies and other native plants that flourished in the long grass. Butterflies and flowers have joined woodland birds as a focus for nature walks and biodiversity surveys that enable people to understand and enjoy the flora and fauna at a deeper level. A project to map Aintree’s green spaces will help lead staff, patients and visitors through the wildlife rich areas all around the Aintree site, taking people around the mix of wildflower meadows, aromatic herbaceous borders and wonderful woodland.