The benefits of nature on mental health and well-being have long been known and now we are offering our patients the chance to get more out of their enjoyment of the outdoors. 

Occupational therapist Heather Fras has launched a Gardening & Tonic pilot at both of our hospices. 

She hopes the horticulture course will instil confidence, well-being, resilience and tranquillity for those patients attending. 


“These sorts of courses are run by hospices nationwide,” said Heather “and it has been shown that there are both social and therapeutic benefits behind them. 

“Connection with nature promotes well-being and quality of life, reduces stress levels while restoring skills, interests, personal identity and a sense of purpose. 


“This is less of a gardening group and more of an extension of occupational therapy. The course runs for four weeks and gives confidence and resilience, allows people to regain control and improve their self-esteem. It is about tranquillity and finding hope, peace and happiness. 

“The sessions are designed to support people to live well through access to nature, offering the great outdoors, indoors.” 


The first course ran at Bicton in the creative therapy room in the new community services centre. “At present, participants take part in table-top sessions, creating, for example seasonal planters or potpourri and sowing seeds,” she said. 

“I hope that in the future I will be able to run an outdoor group with perhaps a potting shed and a veg patch where the patients can grow and harvest vegetables. 

“The first course was part of a pilot and was fully booked. We have space for four patients and then there is me and two volunteers. Of course, the room is big enough to accommodate more people but with social distancing this is what we feel comfortable with currently. There is plenty of room for growth with this course. 


“Getting back to nature helps health and well-being. For a lot of people, when they become ill, they are not able to garden so this brings back an activity that they used to love.” 

The courses are open to anyone receiving care at our hospices and they can be referred by day services and Hospice at Home teams. Unfortunately, it is not suitable for anybody receiving chemotherapy. 


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