A place of healing and hopePUBLISHED ON: 14 DECEMBER 2020
A nature oasis has been created at a New Forest hospital to help people with their mental health and wellbeing.
The New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) and a team of more than 30 volunteers have restored a meadow and trail in the grounds of Tatchbury Mount Hospital, in Calmore, which helps people who have significant challenges to their mental health.
Staff and young people were involved in the project which included planting hawthorn, blackthorn, holly and hazel and enhancing the site for nature.
The meadow and surrounding woodlands feature a trim trail, ponds and a beehive, and are now being enjoyed by staff, patients and visitors to the hospital.
Dominic Lodge, Community Development Lead at Southern Health, said: ‘It has been a wonderful partnership and combination of people coming together and talking about the healing nature of the meadow and the woodlands, and the hope it brings to those who are struggling with challenges in their lives both mentally and physically.
‘We want to show the meadow, the woodland and the trail are places of healing, places of hope and places of good health.’
The meadow, known as Brighter Grounds, has benefitted from two projects in the Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme, a National Lottery Heritage Fund scheme led by the NPA.
Natures Stepping Stones helps landowners improve the quality of Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) and other meadows and grasslands for wildlife in the Forest.
Angela Peters, Natures Stepping Stones Project Officer, said: ‘The meadow supports wild flowers such as tormentil, bird’s foot trefoil and marsh thistle which in turn support butterflies, bees and many other insects. Through our work with the staff at the hospital we have tweaked the cutting regime to allow the meadow to flower all summer so the wildlife can flourish. We have planted a native hedge which will provide year-round food and shelter for a range of wildlife.’
Further work planned includes enhancing the ponds for wildlife and planting more wild flowers to increase biodiversity.
Angela added: ‘Getting staff, service users and our own volunteers involved in making the site better for wildlife and people has been a rewarding experience. With ongoing management, more wildlife will come to the meadow and it will provide wider benefits to the New Forest’s biodiversity by providing a “stepping stone” for nature.’
The meadow and trim trail will soon benefit from engaging content through New Forest Connects, an Our Past, Our Future project which promotes a greater connection to the Forest.
Plans include displays of poetry and inspirational writing by staff and patients, as well as artwork made from natural material.
Gareth Owen, NPA Interpretation and Outreach Officer, said: ‘Our hope is that by developing the existing trim trail it will help users better connect with the natural environment through the addition of natural material, nature inspired artwork and better access to the meadow area, as well as content produced by staff and patients in the form of artwork and written content.’
A wooden bench carved from a tree trunk, oak waymarkers and an interpretation panel with information about the different habitats, flora and fauna, are also planned.
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Our Past, Our Future
Our Past, Our Future is a Landscape Partnership Scheme for the New Forest which, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is undertaking a range of projects to restore lost habitats, develop Forest skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the New Forest. The partnership focuses on the enclosed lands which surround the Open Forest.
The five-year scheme includes 21 projects and is being led by the New Forest National Park Authority working with several delivery and funding partners.
For more information about the Our Past, Our Future scheme, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/landscapepartnership.
About the New Forest National Park Authority
Protect – Enjoy – Prosper
The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:
-Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park – Protect.
-Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.
We also have a duty to:
Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.
The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.