In the garden

A special garden for palliative care patients to spend time with family and friends was opened on Thursday 28th April, at St Peter’s Hospital, in Chertsey.

The existing courtyard at the hospital has been transformed into a calming and private garden which provides a dedicated space for loved ones to spend precious moments with their family or friends whilst receiving end-of-life care at St Peter’s Hospital.

The Eternal Garden is the third garden of this kind in the country and has been designed by award-winning garden and landscape designer, Rae Wilkinson. The garden comprises a patioed area surrounded by pleached trees, an oak pergola, planted beds, wooden benches and three water bowls to fill the garden with the calming sound of trickling water. Also located in the courtyard is a garden room with bi-folding glass doors to allow the healing power of nature to flow throughout. To enable The Eternal Garden to be used both day and night, all year round, the room has heating installed and lights around the garden’s patio area.

The garden can also be booked by staff to use the space to have difficult conversations with patients and their families or for parents under the Trust’s maternity and neonatal services whose babies have sadly died or are receiving palliative end-of-life care.

This courtyard has been named The Eternal Garden, as the name signifies time without end and how things endure beyond life, including memories and the impact others have on our lives.

Garden designer and TV presenter Arit Anderson, who officially opened The Eternal Garden, said: “We come into the world in a whirl of energy and what happens after that is up to fate, but what we do need is to be nurtured in our most difficult of times. The Eternal Garden will be a wonderful place of sanctuary and healing to patients, family, and staff at St Peter’s. Bravo to the team, Rae Wilkinson and The Outdoor Room for creating this special and necessary space.”

Rae Wilkinson, who designed the garden, said: “It’s been a real honour to help create such a special garden at St Peter’s Hospital. Gardens are truly valuable spaces which bring vital wellbeing input to all, especially within hospital and care giving environments. The benefits of being in the sanctuary of nature within this garden will bring some much-needed space and peace during difficult times for patients, their carers and their loved ones.”

The transformation of this space has been funded by the Friends of St Peter’s Hospital as their final project, after several decades of ongoing support for the hospital. The Eternal Garden is part of Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Healing Arts programme, which is introducing more visual art, music and performance into the hospitals and improving the architecture and green spaces across the Trust.

Marcine Waterman, Deputy Chairman and Non-executive lead for the Healing Arts, said: “I’m delighted that The Eternal Garden is now open for our patients receiving palliative care to spend time with family and friends away from the hospital wards and instead surrounded by the peace and calm of nature. We were inspired to create this at St Peter’s after hearing of friends’ and families’ experiences of how beneficial such environments can be at difficult times, and we wanted to recreate such an environment for our community. Areas in hospitals such as The Eternal Garden are vital for patients receiving palliative care or receiving difficult news. This garden will provide great benefits for both our patients and their families. “

Dr David Fluck, Interim Chief Executive at Ashford and St Peter’s, said: “I’d like to thank The Friends of St Peter’s for their generous donation which has enabled us to create this very special area at our hospital for our patients, their families and friends, who I believe will value the time spent in this garden and the precious moments it can bring. I’d also like to thank the Healing Arts Committee for their hard work and dedication in developing this valued and much-needed space for our community.”

The Eternal Garden opens on Sunday 1st May 2022 for patients, their families and friends to use. To book time in The Eternal Garden, please call the Trust’s visitor booking line on 01932 723318.

Photo: L-R Andy Field, Marcine Waterman, Rae Wilkinson the Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Arit Anderson and David Fluck