Many rare and exotic trees are found across the whole of St Ann’s Hospital site in the London borough of Haringey, some nearly 100 years old. All the way along the southern perimeter, parallel with the Gospel Oak to Barking railway line, runs the ‘Wild Place’, a strip of woodland which is both a commuter link and home to the rich variety of wildlife that travels into Tottenham from the Lea Valley. It’ a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation (SINC), and “the key environmental feature of the site”, according to David Bevan, former Conservation Officer at Haringey Council.

Friends of St Ann’s Green Spaces (stAGS) is a new Friends Group launched officially during Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, which helps to care for the green spaces at St Ann’s. Despite recent changes on both sides of the site, stAGS want to ensure that the green spaces are conserved and enhanced for all users into the future through long-term, whole-site management.

Over the last five years, members of stAGS have facilitated a partnership dialogue group to discuss green space issues – particularly focusing on the woodland strip – across both sides of the St Ann’s site with support from Hospital Strategic Development Director Andrew Wright, established local environmental groups, the London Wildlife Trust, The Conservation Volunteers, and local community housing group St Ann’s Redevelopment Trust. More recently, membership of the stAGS partnership group has expanded to include Friends of Chestnuts Park, Greener St Ann’s (the hospital staff’s green group) and representatives from the Greater London Authority and its developer Catalyst. The group has also extended its initial focus on the SINC to cover a broader remit relating to biodiversity and sustainability across the site.

Some members of stAGS, with help from London Wildlife Trust, raised limited funds from Network Rail (under the Biodiversity Offset Scheme) in 2017 to start looking after the SINC and to create a woodland path for hospital service users, staff and visitors.

The Conservation Volunteers ran a Covid-safe onsite session, relaunching the stAGS volunteering schedule which came to a halt during the pandemic. Participants were litter picking and clearing brambles to allow wild flowers to thrive, and they will restart on the path again after the nesting season later in the summer.

Within the wards and therapy areas there are smaller courtyards that allow for planting of small bedding plants. This allows a connection with nature while on the ward, with the wider green landscape holding the possibility for a further connection with green space and wildlife. The site has a variety of green spaces that we hope will be developed into garden and green spaces projects. The garden project will also be in initiated in conjunction with the already operational bike project that is coordinated by the Early Intervention Team.

Camilla Cox, OT and Therapy Lead, said: ” We were so grateful to receive 20 tree’s for the St Ann’s Hospital site in North London from NHS Forests. It was an excellent day in February with up to 15 persons attending including, staff, service users and local residents getting stuck with planting the trees which included: cherries, crab apple, elders to name a few! There was some great conversation as we planted the trees about how tree’s communicate with each other and the world around them, how being outside and planted tree’s made us feel, laughter and chatter could be heard as we worked.  Tree’s were planted in different locations across the site, some in and around the woodland and others in more open areas where we hope to develop more gardening activity.   The day has created enthusiasm for more gardening activity on the hospital site and is part of a growing interest in the green spaces we have available to us at the hospital.  I would like to give thanks to NHS Forests, The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), St Ann’s Green Spaces (StAGS) that supported us with this endeavour and for all those that attended and made it a nourishing and enjoyable event”