With its rooftop garden, indoor trees, roadside mini meadows and thriving allotment, it feels like every available inch of land at Southmead Hospital has been greened up and encouraged – quite literally – to bloom. The site, in North Bristol, boasts an impressive 19 acres of green space, which is used in a huge variety of ways.
Staff wellbeing sessions include identifying and sketching wildflowers, practicing mindfulness in nature, and weaving plants into handmade stick looms. They are encouraged to use the outdoor green gym, and to take lunchtime walks to improve their own health, using the Southmead Hospital Explorer Map which highlights the site’s green spaces. The allotment and orchard provide organic fruit and veg, as well as the opportunity to learn horticultural skills during breaks. If that all sounds a bit too active, the staff canteen leads onto the rooftop herb garden, offering a sunny green space with wide city views, yet secluded from patients and visitors.
Southmead Hospital is aiming for a green space view for every patient, whether out onto the sheltered courtyard garden, the rose garden or one of the many meadows which burst with colour each spring and summer as poppies, bird’s foot trefoil and huge purple thistles emerge.
All this has resulted in a huge boost to biodiversity as well, of course – with plenty of pollen for bees and butterflies, and thriving birdlife including abundant goldfinches and a pair of wagtails. Scattered around the site are insect hotels and bird boxes that were donated or built by the local community. Crucially, the trust sees its ecological work integrally connected to Bristol-wide and regional initiatives, such as the planting of NHS Forest trees in the small forest at Trym Valley, and at Horfield Leisure Centre. In addition, sustainable drainage features such as attenuation ponds and plant-friendly permeable paving reduce the risk of flooding.
Since April 2021, the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s Nature Recovery Ranger Phoebe Webster has been stationed at Southmead, where she tends to the allotment, sets aside no-now areas, and leads staff wellbeing and horticulture sessions. She was also involved in the creation of a ‘hedgehog highway’ ensuring these mammals have a safe route between the hospital grounds and adjacent gardens, as well as cosy hibernation spots.