Cirencester Hospital has a large woodland, a small wildflower meadow, more formal garden areas and green courtyards. The woodland, which occupies about a third of the site, has its own apple orchard, a tree nursery, and an outdoor performance space set in a green clearing. This was designed as a venue for local community groups and is also well used in the summer by hospital staff on their breaks.
Unusually, in recent times the hospital grounds have been maintained by a team of volunteers with a wide range of abilities and experience, under the guidance of two professional landscape managers. There has been close collaboration between the grounds team, a local FE college, various voluntary organisations and the town council, which manage the larger part of the woodland.
A network of footpaths running through the woods, was created by volunteers. As well as providing a circular ‘Wellbeing Walk’, this offers an alternative route into the hospital for local residents and connects the site to the open green space of a nearby Roman amphitheatre. A further intriguing reminder of the town’s Roman past can be found within the hospital grounds, where, on the edge of the woods, there is a stone sarcophagus. This is now displayed, with interpretation panels, in a substantial wooden shelter, that was built by a hospital volunteer. Another impressive sight in the woodland is a huge fallen tree trunk, carved into by a local artist and now erupting with ferns.
Cirencester Hospital has run a series of series seasonal apple pressing days and has regularly marked NHS sustainability day with tree planting and other activities for schoolchildren. The hospital’s ‘Green Gym’ initiative, organised with The Conservation Volunteers, won an NHS Forest Award in 2014 for Best Community Engagement. These volunteering events – which attracted over 200 attendees – created weekly opportunities for people to get physically active and meet with others for landscaping and tree planting activities at the hospital site.
Over time, many of the hospital’s volunteers have learnt new skills and some have gone on to find related employment, with one becoming a fulltime gardener at a general hospital and another starting their own weeding business.