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Project: Critical Care Unit Healing Garden

This page was last updated: June 15th, 2022

A healing and sensory garden for critically ill patients to experience nature and the outdoors as part of their recovery.
A new Healing Garden for the Critical Care Unit is being developed, funded entirely by charitable donation, following a magnificent fundraising campaign led by the renowned explorer Robin Hanbury-Tenison and his wife Louella. Robin, who lives in Cornwall, believes that the Healing Garden at University Hospitals Plymouth saved his life after he contracted Covid-19 right at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

He feels so strongly about the life saving power of nature and the benefits provided by hospital healing gardens, that he’d like to see a dedicated therapeutic garden in every hospital in the UK – starting with RCHT, here in Cornwall. You can watch Robin’s incredibly moving story of recovery here.

The positive clinical impact of hospital healing gardens is well known and, along with the Hanbury-Tenison’s fundraising campaign, Critical Care Staff Nurse Kym Vigus has long campaigned to create a Healing Garden for critically ill patients at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

Working with the ideas of Critical Care staff and patients, the landscape design company Lavigne Lonsdale aim to create a beautiful but practical healing garden in a courtyard between Trelawny Wing and the Emergency Department. This therapeutic space will be immediately below the Critical Care Unit to allow the best possible access for critically ill patients and their families and carers.

Visual: Project: Critical Care Unit Healing GardenThere will be space for up to two hospital beds, at any one time, supported by Critical Care Unit therapists, nurses, medical staff and families and carers. Medical gasses will be provided directly to the garden to enable patients to stay in the garden for longer that would be possible with a bottled medical gas supply.

There will be restful seating areas, therapy and rehabilitation areas, and the garden will reflect the essence of Cornwall, night and day, through the seasons. The garden will also be available for Critical Care staff to use as a rest area – for quiet times, break times and decompression.

As well as providing a space for quiet reflection, the garden will also be filled with the power and drama of nature: plants that will fill the senses; trees, ferns, flowers and grasses of all textures and heights; the pleasant smells and sounds of the natural world brought to the patient’s bedside. We hope that this healing garden will allow our critically ill patients to feel alive once more, or perhaps for one last time.

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Access to the courtyard garden is via the Trelawny Wing and Link Corridor. We anticipate groundworks and installations will cause some noise disturbance, especially if heavy machinery for the landscaping is required and during the installation of piped gasses.

We have chosen to do the work during the winter months, so that windows can be closed to dampen the noise and to prevent any risk of air pollution to internal areas as a result of ground disturbance.

We will also review the need for sound blankets as the works progress. Other disruption – including the movement of machinery, plants and soil, and building materials – will be minimised, and will be planned for when traffic is low in the adjacent corridor.

We will ensure staff, patients and visitors are informed of any planned disruption ahead of time. The work is anticipated to take no longer than 12 weeks.


The Critical Care Healing Garden will be planted with a range of species that will thrive in a courtyard setting. Planting is being carefully curated to be evergreen, as well as seasonal, and to provide some privacy and canopy protection for patients from the elements.

The aim is to provide sensory opportunities without overloading the senses for recovering patients.

The environmental impact assessment, to support planning permission for the Tremenel Unit, (being constructed between the Princess Alexandra Wing and the Tower Block), requires the Trust to redress the balance of ecological diversity disrupted by the new building.

This may be achieved in part through a new living wall as part of the design for the Critical Care Healing Garden. Design options are under review.

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