Given its position on a busy hospital site, Sobell House Hospice in Oxford introduces a remarkable amount of contact with nature for those patients who find it helpful. Thanks to an unusual fundraising event, a new extension currently under construction will provide the opportunity for even more, and in a rather special way.
Visiting the hospice in the weeks before Christmas, a time when few gardens are at their most welcoming, it was good to see the conservatory at Sobell House being used by patients and families as a place to talk. Extending out into one the small gardens and furnished with well-tended houseplants, there’s a sense of being surrounded and supported by nature even when it’s too cold to sit outside.
The doors of the well-equipped music room open on to the same garden. Here, music therapist Tom Crook helps patients to write their own songs – recording them on CDs to share with friends and family. For patients who use nature for inspiration, the garden is close at hand. Hannah, an art therapist supported by Sobell House Charity, also helps them to explore their creativity, often taking nature as a starting point.
Beyond the hospice rooftop there’s a glimpse of the scaffold-clad extension, expected to be finished in May 2019. As fundraising assistant Madeleine explains, “The extension will have six new rooms for patients. It’s been designed to include help for those with dementia. There will also be space for our charity office to relocate, an outpatient clinic and facilities for lymphoedema patients. The garden will be re-landscaped too”.
As the result of an imaginative fundraising event held at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford last November, some of the walls of the extension will be decorated with images inspired by ‘The Lost Words’ – a magical book, created by writer Rob Macfarlane and illustrator Jackie Morris, that reconnects us to names from the natural world that we are in danger of forgetting.
On a very cold evening, a 500 strong audience gathered to hear from the book’s creators about its popularity with people of all ages. It was a privilege to see and hear patients and their families share the Sheldonian stage with Rob and Jackie. Alongside poems from ‘The Lost Words’ and Jackie’s live painting of an otter, they introduced some of the songs, poems and art they’ve created at Sobell House – describing with great poignancy their relationship with nature. It was an extraordinary and moving event.
Perhaps its success shouldn’t have been a surprise. As its creators intended, ‘The Lost Words’ conjures up conversation and sharing about nature both within and between generations. Just imagine the gentle impact the new murals on the walls of Sobell House Hospice will have for patients, families and staff. Landscape Gardens and Health network hopes to be back to take a look later this year.
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