‘Raigmore Gardens – Growing Together’ is a green space project at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the inequality of green space access and importance of nature connection and this started the idea of making areas of the green space surrounding our building available for food growing.
While spending time on the Raigmore site, it became clear to staff how much potential it had. They shared their thoughts on the importance of nature connection and biodiversity; the opportunities and benefit of emotional regulation and grounding for the many children and young people that visit the healthcare centre; and the opportunities for connection, wellbeing and outdoor exploration for all. This initiated the development of the vision.
The project has now grown to a group of volunteers from various backgrounds, including healthcare professionals, third sector organisations and residents in the adjacent areas. The green space project surrounds and is adjacent to a building complex, which houses the outpatient clinic space of CAMHS, Acute and Community Paediatrics and allied health professionals working with children and young people. It also includes a strip of land next to the wall of the previous walled hospital garden. It sits beside a residential area with a designated nursery and primary school.
Raigmore’s vision is to create biodiverse green spaces that promote nature connection, health and wellbeing, and provide an inclusive and accessible space for connection, exploration, rest and relaxation. The gardens will incorporate an outdoor education area, a community garden, a therapeutic and sensory garden, a staff wellbeing garden, an outdoor waiting area and orchard. They are planning to create a space with plenty of perennial plants including fruit and nut bushes, native hedgerows and trees, wildlife habitat and lots of seating opportunities. The plan is to co-create and co-design the space with children and young people, with building users and the wider community.
The project is now into its third season of growing flowers, vegetable and fruit in barrel planters. The Community Garden has started up and the first picnic benches have been installed in the outdoor waiting area.
Raigmore has made connections with local residents and third sector organisations, including Raigmore Community Residents Association, Incredible Edible Inverness and Highland Good Food Partnership and is starting to make connections to the adjacent primary school. A steering group is up and running.
The Health Board has given the project the go ahead. Raigmore Gardens – Growing Together has the support and representation of the management teams and Estates, and representation of Highland Council and the Raigmore Estates residents.
It is Raigmore’s long-term goal to employ a horticultural therapist/ranger/facilitator to manage the site. This staff member could link and coordinate the involvement of other food growing and nature connection related organisations, coordinate the maintenance on site and offer nature connection and wellbeing related activities and engagement events on site.
Access to biodiverse green spaces and nature connection are essential to human health and wellbeing. Raigmore is passionate that the provision of this on a healthcare site and specifically around a children and young people’s healthcare facility through its gardens is exactly what we need.