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Opening the Helen & Douglas House Garden

24/08/2021

Opening the Helen & Douglas House Garden

24/08/2021

We recently welcomed Darren Field of The New Driveway Company and other contributors and volunteers to the official opening of our new hospice garden by Hannah Ingram-Moore, Captain Sir Tom’s daughter.

Lucie, Hannah Ingram-Moore, Benji, Georgia, Finley and Michaela cut the ribbon on the garden

Lucie, Hannah Ingram-Moore, Benji, Georgia, Finley and Michaela cut the ribbon on the garden

The Captain Tom Foundation, along with many other generous donors, donated money to provide this wonderful new outside space for families to spend special moments in and it was made possible by an army of local businesses and community volunteers who, set aside their own challenges of the past year, and came together to create something very special for local terminally ill children.

These wonderful volunteers contributed materials, funding and hours of work in the garden itself to transform it completely. Parts of the old garden originated from 1982 when we first opened as the world’s first children’s hospice and although some sections had been updated, the majority needed to be redesigned.

Two volunteers in the garden

The main aim was to provide an outdoor space terminally ill children could enjoy whilst staying at the hospice as well as a tranquil space for families to spend precious hours in. For children staying at the hospice there is a specially designed sensory play equipment areas including a swing and roundabout for wheelchair users and outdoor musical instruments. There is a wonderful new water feature, comfortable seating areas, and an abundance of beautiful flowers for families to enjoy.

Hannah Ingram-Moore with her children Benji and Georgia, Darren Field with his wife and daughter

This wonderful new outside space provides an amazing sensory experience for children and their families staying at the hospice with different sights, sounds, textures and aromas that animate the senses, giving them some simple pleasures that help them just when they need it most. The bright colours of the flowers, the fragrant smell of the herbs releasing lovely relaxing aromas, feeling the grass beneath their feet and listening to the birdsong and water.

For families who stay at the hospice for end-of-life care, there are areas of peace and tranquillity which are a special place to spend their last hours with their child or after their death.
Work started in the garden at the end of February, and it was completed in June. This project relied on the goodwill and help from so many people and organisations who provided their time for free, donated materials and who made financial donations to make this project possible.

Garden before renovation

Garden before renovation.

The person who spearheaded this project working with our project Manager Aga Morris, was local driveway, patio and landscaping specialist Darren Field, Managing Director of the New Driveway Company.

Darren said ‘In December 2020 we were approached by Zoli at Helen & Douglas House to give a price to replace the footpaths and was given a tour of the hospice when I met some of the fantastic people that worked there. It was evident that the outside atmosphere and surroundings did not match the inspirational inside.

So rather than just quote for the paths, I started working with Zoli and Aga to re design the garden. I started making some calls to local suppliers, our clients and local contacts. It quickly became a type of ‘DIY SOS’ type project and within weeks we had donations pouring in and volunteers started turning up with 30 people one Saturday in the rain which was amazing.

Never in my life have I had the pleasure of working with such a driven, dedicated and hard-working team. A big thanks also goes out to my many friends and business colleagues who dug deep to come up with an amazing amount of donations of time, materials and money. Special thanks go to my family including my wife Kate, for putting up with my stress whilst we planned and delivered this project. I hope that the final result brings happiness to all that use the gardens in years to come.

After the garden makeover

After the garden makeover

Michaela Middleton and her family live in Bicester. Her 12 year old son Finley has a life shortening condition and comes for respite visits to Helen & Douglas House along with his sister, 10 year old Lucie, who is supported by the hospice’s siblings club.

Finley and Lucie playing in the garden

Michaela said ‘What Finley likes best is the new stepped water feature and the sandpit. His sister Lucie loves the water feature too and the new smooth pathways. As a parent it is much easier the push Finley’s wheelchair around the garden now and it’s much brighter and spacious without the old treehouse. It feels more user friendly and having the new wheelchair swing is amazing. We love it and want to thank all of the volunteers and business’ who gave up their time and who gave donations and materials to complete the garden makeover. It’s great!

Lucie, Findley and PAT Dog Eddie and his owner Julie.