Horatio's Garden

Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with Cleve West post-Chelsea to find out more about his involvement with Horatio's Garden, a project which has excited me ever since I found out about it earlier this year. You can probably guess from the background in the photo above that development is still at the hardscaping stage.

The garden is being built at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre at Salisbury hospital. Anyone in Southern England who suffers a major spinal injury will be transferred here for their treatment, so the area served by Salisbury's facilities is huge.

The garden is named after Horatio Chapple, the son of David Chapple, a consultant spinal surgeon at the hospital. Horatio volunteered at the spinal unit and planned to study medicine when he left school. Unfortunately he was killed in a tragic accident before he could fulfil his ambition to transform people's lives. His voluntary work identified the need for a patients' garden, so the one in his name will form a most fitting memorial.

Imagine being in a place for a year (on average) having suffered a life changing injury and having nowhere to go but inside the hospital or just a small space outside the front doors. So you can see how Horatio's Garden is going to greatly improve the quality of life for those patients and help their healing process. The above picture shows Cleve's vision for the finished garden.

Little did the project team know that Cleve already knew of the spinal unit and had visited a number of times before he was asked to be involved. A close friend, now married to his cousin, had a serious accident a while ago and was treated there for a year. It's another example of how the project has become so personal and passionate to the people involved.

Already the garden's making a difference to those patients able to look down onto the site from the hospital window on the first floor as shown in the above picture. You can also see some of the challenges the site has - the ugly car park to the front and a hotch potch of buildings. The sign on the building opposite the entrance to the garden (just behind the people in the picture) says 'Bereavement Centre', it doesn't help to create the peace and tranquillity patients are needing does it?

Note the amazing dry stone walls in the picture, such craftsmanship - David Wilson talks about their creation in this video. Two 'broken walls' represent a fractured spine and a complete one represents a healed one. Note also the low hills and the line of trees behind the building and car park. Cleve is aiming to use these views whilst disguising the car park and buildings in the foreground to help give a sense of place to the garden.

There's also a number of different areas in the design for the different needs the patients, their families and staff will have for the garden. Quiet areas for people wanting to be alone; communal spaces for people to get together and for a host of events and exhibitions already being lined up; plus a growing space complete with a greenhouse (represented by the outline in the above picture) for patients wanting to be more active and start growing plants.

Here you can see another of the site's challenges, the tennis court boundary. Cleve took the difficult decision to remove the assorted trees which were originally there (see this video). Whilst they helped to block the view of the tennis court, they were of varying heights and colours.

Thank goodness Cleve's Best in Show design for Chelsea this year included a wonderful beech hedge. Brewin Dolphin, the garden's sponsors who are based in Wiltshire agreed to donate the hedge plus a number of plants and some stonework, proving there is life for a show garden after Chelsea. The hedge arrived last Friday and you can see in the picture where it will go. The main planting is due to start in July and there's already a number of volunteers lined up to help :)

I'll leave you with a picture of some of the key people closely involved with the garden: Olivia Chapple - Horatio's mother; Martin Gomm of Wycliffe Landscapes - the main contractor; Cleve; Camilla Hiley - a Salisbury based garden designer who's project manager and Sue Hall, the person I've been dealing with from the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust, the organisation ensuring all the funds are in place for the garden.

If you remember my trip to see Alys Fowler at The Organic Garden at Holt Farm, this is just one of the many imaginative fundraisers they've lined up for this year. Have a look at this page to see what's coming up and other ways in which you can help.

My thanks to Sue and Cleve for letting me visit and to them plus Olivia, Martin and Camilla who made me so welcome on the day and who spoke with such passion about their involvement in the project. I hope to see you all again soon!


  1. We met Cleve at Chelsea, and he's a really really nice guy. We admired the beech hedge in the Brewin Dolphin Garden and it will look fabulous in Horatio's.

  2. what a great idea. The bones of it are already looking good. It will be excellent if the garden can be integrated with the wider landscape view, which is lovely, while jumping over the car park - that will be quite an achievement! Sorry for the unfortunate pun above but I can't think of another way of saying it :)

  3. What a fantastic project, my mum had a five inch syst in her spinal column and has had seven operations in Salisbury hospital. I can't stress enough how important it is for the patients in the hospital to be able to get outside, get some fresh air and get back to feeling like they've got a normal life again. Can't wait to show my mum next time she's there.

  4. Hi everyone - glad you enjoyed this post. I'm so looking forward to visiting again :)

    The beech hedge is in and looking good!


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