The Royal Edinburgh Hospital is based in the busy south side of Edinburgh. It was built as a Victorian Asylum in the midst of extensive park grounds and has a number of very old trees and an old orchard. The site is currently undergoing dramatic changes, with multiple buildings being added or removed as well as changes to the path and road layout over the next decade or so. A huge amount of tree planting has accompanied changes so far.
It is a challenging time to establish NHS Forest on the site but also a great opportunity to highlight the role and importance of trees and greenspaces during this period of change. Current features of the site include: open parkland with mature trees, woodland borders, newly planted shrub and tree borders, a community garden, flower beds, an orchard dating back around 150 years, and a therapeutic garden with an orchard, patient growing space and large heated greenhouses.
The hospital is home to city wildlife including foxes, rabbits, many species of birds – including owls – and a wide variety of insects. The community garden hosts honey bee hives and over the warmer months offers bee keeping courses to patients.
Under the auspices of NHS Forest, we will be promoting patient involvement in the planting, building and care of the hospital grounds and its wildlife. The hospital has three long-term, regular patient gardening groups where people find peace and enjoyment as well as achieving things like growing food and improving the aesthetics and wildlife value of the site. We will harness this enthusiasm and skill to increase involvement in the hospital grounds and build people’s skills and knowledge of conservation work and local wildlife.
In addition, we will aim to encourage people to notice the nature around them and to make increased use of the space for therapeutic purposes, aiming to inspire wonder, peace and relaxation. We will further promote the existing walking routes in the site and encourage mindfulness for staff, visitors and patients.
The hospital planted 200 trees in 2020, sponsored by green search engine Ecosia.