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Gorseinon Hospital’s new-look garden a blooming success with patients

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Gorseinon Hospital is using its newly-developed courtyard garden as a way of aiding patients’ recovery.

Patients can enjoy nature and admire the bees, butterflies and flower beds following a transformation of the garden, but a new daily programme has also been set up to boost their recovery in a natural way.

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The seeds were sown for the redevelopment after the hospital came top in a nationwide vote to secure some of the £50,000 secured by Keep Wales Tidy’s Healthy Hospital Gardens initiative through the National Lottery People’s Project.

An outdoor area used by Morriston Hospital’s burns and plastic surgery unit, along with Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda in Cwm Taf Morgannwg, has also benefitted from the funding.

The Gorseinon garden has already proved a budding success with raised beds, a covered seating area and wildflower turf among the new features.

Debra McNeil, matron at the hospital, said the new-look garden offers many mental and physical benefits.

She said: “I witnessed first-hand the dedication from the volunteers, local businesses and community – without their sheer determination and commitment to the project we would never have achieved this beautiful space for our patients and staff to enjoy.

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“With the gardens now complete, a daily programme has been created so patients can have input in the garden by planting, feeding and weeding the planting areas.

“This will give many patients confidence to realise their rehabilitation potential in a natural way.

“Staff wellbeing is high on our agenda and the gazebo is there for staff to enjoy during their much needed breaks in a non-clinical area.”

Patients at the hospital in the new garden (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

The completion of the work is a dream come true for Christine Pettifer, site manager at the hospital.

She has spent 13 of her 26 years working in the NHS in Gorseinon. She’s in no doubt how beneficial the new-look courtyard will be to all concerned.

She said: “For years this has been my vision. We were lucky enough to have won the lottery and I’m ecstatic with the end result.

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“It is a dream come true for me because the patients, staff and visitors can now enjoy the area.

“One of our patients told me she used to be in a gardener’s club, so she’s hoping to be in the courtyard garden every day for half an hour either doing some gardening or just taking in the view.”

Work on the courtyard started in February 2020 and was expected to be completed within a year, but the start of the covid pandemic stunted progress.

However, a combination of commitment, community spirit and sheer goodwill has finally resulted in a project which will benefit the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors.

Mark Humphreys, assistant technical services officer, has been involved in the project since its inception in 2018.

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He said: “From day one, this project has been something the community has got behind.

“Once we were among the projects in the running for the funds, I spoke to staff in Gorseinon Hospital and elderly age groups in the area. They offered to take leaflets around the area for people to vote.

A view of the garden before work commenced (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

“People were also voting at the hospital when they were having their blood tests.

“We canvassed in Morriston Hospital too, with all levels of staff helping out. It meant we had the most votes in Wales with just under 5,000.

“Gorseinon is very lucky in that it has a real strong sense of community. We’ve had so many volunteers help out on top of the fantastic support we’ve kindly received from local businesses.

“A lot of people that have been part of this were doing their day job and then putting in a shift in the garden on top of that. That gives you an idea of their commitment to making this courtyard a place to relax and enjoy.”

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Relaxation and enjoyment form part of the benefits the courtyard brings in terms of wellbeing.

Patients and staff can quickly switch from a clinical setting to embracing nature within a few footsteps.

Des Keighan, assistant director of estates, said: “We have transformed the courtyard to an area which will benefit the well-being of everyone involved.

“Biophilia is the recognition that humans benefit from interacting with outdoor space.

“You don’t feel like you’re on hospital grounds when you’re sat on a bench in the courtyard looking at the beautiful garden.

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“Just having a place where you can sit, relax and rest your mind can’t be underestimated.

“This garden epitomises what we are trying to achieve, which is providing inspiring spaces on our sites.

The official opening of the courtyard garden at Gorseinon Hospital (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

“We have a lot of space across our hospitals that are concrete parking spaces.

“Now we are looking at our spaces differently – we are trying to make the most of the environment we have got, and that doesn’t finish at the bricks and mortar, it’s about looking the grounds.

“It’s important that we build on successes like the courtyard in Gorseinon.”

The project bloomed thanks to Keep Wales Tidy’s Healthy Hospital Gardens initiative.

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Pamela Bacon, Keep Wales Tidy regional manager, attended the opening ceremony of the courtyard to see the full extent of the work.

“We’re very proud in what we’ve been involved with in Gorseinon Hospital because it will make a difference to a lot of people,” she said.

“It feels like you are part of nature in the courtyard.

“It’s great for the patients but also for the staff, who have high pressured jobs, along with relatives. It’s a place to rest and refresh and to enjoy the flowers, bees and butterflies.

The new courtyard garden at Gorseinon Hospital (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

“It won’t be onerous in terms of maintenance. That’s why we’ve gone with wildflower turf, which has taken really well.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how the garden flourishes.”

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Nuria Zolle, independent health board member, cut the ribbon to officially open the courtyard.

She said: “I have had been humbled by all the support and help the health board has received. It stands as a beacon of what we can achieve when working together.”

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Gardening

Burst of wildflower colour returns to Swansea this summer thanks to council scheme

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City communities are enjoying a blaze of colour this summer thanks to the council’s popular wildflower planting scheme.

Over the past few years the council has attracted pollinating insects to its roadside verges, roundabouts, parks and rough ground by allowing the grass to grow long in selected locations, which allows wildflowers to bloom, and by seeding formal beds with a colourful mix of flowers.

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And now it’s going one step further by introducing native wildflowers at a dozen locations around the city which will continue to bloom year after year.

Seeds specially selected from the National Botanic Garden of Wales’ beautiful wildflower meadows in Carmarthenshire have been planted this autumn and winter ready for this summer and for years to come.

The initiative is on top of the annual flower planting season which has kicked off at around 190 places around Swansea that are due to rise in a blaze of colour over the coming weeks.

The move are part of the council’s commitment to tackling climate change and biodiversity loss by promoting plant and insect life which includes new ways of cutting grass that is promoting pollinators and environmentally-healthy parks and verges.

Andrew Stevens, Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure, said the council is at the forefront of trying out new ways to promote wildflowers and biodiversity across city communities.

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He said: “We’re working alongside our nature conservation team and other organisations to create new havens for insects and native wildflowers because that’s what people have been asking us to do.”

“People really love the bright and cheerful wildflower initiative, but some want to see more native varieties introduced. While they aren’t as colourful as other types of wildflowers, native species largely look after themselves.”

“They’re low maintenance, re-grow year after year and support native insect-life as well. That’s why we’re experimenting at locations including on Carmarthen Road, Oystermouth Road, Swansea Enterprise Zone, the Vetch as well as in more rural locations like Pennard.”

“We’re getting our seeds from the national botanical gardens because then we know they’re Welsh seeds grown in Wales.”

The wildflower projects build on the success of the council’s ‘cut and collect’ grass cutting programme in parks, roadside verges and elsewhere that also promotes biodiversity in our communities.

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Cllr Stevens said: “Our new approach to grass cutting is in addition to what we’re already doing and is the best of both worlds because it encourages the maintenance of species-rich vegetation in parks and verges. It also slows down rainwater, helping with flood defence and capturing pollutants from the air.

“But the best thing about it is that we cut the grass twice in the season at specific times so that flowers can complete their lifecycles and naturally distribute seed ready for the next time.

“This cutting less and cutting later approach to grassy areas replenish the seed bank, restores floral diversity, and provides pollinator habitat across the county.”

The Welsh Government has supported the scheme with grant funding for specialist cutting equipment and new machinery. It cuts and collects grass while at the same time carefully removing other dead vegetation to allow air and rain to get to the soil so that seeds have room to germinate.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Gardening

Free kids workshops come to Dobbies’ Swansea garden centre this summer

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Leading UK garden centre, Dobbies is set to host a series of workshops this summer in Swansea for its Little Seedlings Club.

Magnificent Microgreens will take place on Sunday 3 July, and back for 2022 is Dobbies’ Summer Holiday Club sessions, perfect for keeping the little ones busy during the school break.

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Dobbies’ Little Seedlings Club is a free children’s gardening club for children aged 4-10 in Swansea which explores the exciting ways children can connect to plants, wildlife and the environment, nurturing their minds with fun-filled activities.

The Magnificent Microgreens workshop will take a deep dive into the science behind the nutritious leafy greens, showcasing all the health benefits of eating these superfoods and how attendees can easily grow their own at home no matter the space by making their very own windowsill planter to take home and grow.         

The not your average garden centre will also be demonstrating all the ways in which chefs use microgreens in the kitchen to help encourage kids to eat their greens. 

Dobbies’ Summer Holiday Club sessions in Swansea will take place on 31 July and 21 August between 10:15-11:15 am. These interactive workshops will explore how children can create their very own summer sanctuary in the garden for plants and wildlife to flourish. Here attendees will take a closer look at the insects, birds and animals that call the garden home during the summer months, making bug hotels, learning interesting animal facts, and finding out all the ways we can make our garden into a wildlife haven.

Dobbies’ Partnership and Events Manager, Sarah Murray, explained: “Summer holidays are a great chance for the little ones to harvest a new passion for gardening, enjoy time with kids of a similar age and learn something new.

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“Our free Little Seedlings workshops are open to all, and this summer we’re showing our young gardeners that anything is possible in their green space if they have the right knowledge and tools.”

Advance booking is required for the free events to secure your space. For more information about how children can get involved in these workshops at Dobbies’ Swansea store, visit the Magnificent Microgreens and Summer Holiday Club pages on Dobbies website.

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Gardening

Station planters bring colour and biodiversity to Swansea Railway Station

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Renowned Swansea artist Owen Griffiths has transformed the forecourt of Swansea Railway Station into a mini urban garden with a colourful set of planters and natural oak benches.

The project was initiated by South West Wales Connected Community Rail Partnership (SWWCo), which is based at the station.

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It came about after a Shared Vision meeting held by SWWCo and 4theRegion, a membership alliance working to bring about positive change in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. 4theRegion hosts SWWCo and is also based at Swansea Railway Station.

At the meeting, local businesses, organisations and members of the public discussed the need to enhance the station to create a sense of pride and welcome. The result was the station planters project.

The funding and permissions for the work came from the Transport for Wales Biodiversity Fund and Swansea Councils’ Local Places for Nature Funding, with a total of £38,000 being made available.

Planters at Swansea’s High Street train station

Owen Griffiths is well known for his community and garden projects in the area. These include Vetch Veg, in which the former Swansea football ground, the Vetch Field, was transformed into an urban garden; the GRAFT Courtyard Garden Project at the National Waterfront Museum; and most recently the Thinking Green exhibition and gardening project at the Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea.

Griffiths was invited to create a more attractive arrival in Swansea for rail passengers and worked to build sustainability into every aspect of the work. With this in mind, he filled the planters with substrates from local, sustainable sources.

Cockle shells, oyster shells, sand, building rubble and limestone have been used in the place of topsoil, whose extraction and shipping can be damaging to the environment.

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Planters at Swansea’s Hugh Street train station

Griffiths worked closely with Owen Hayman, a horticultural designer currently training at RHS Wisley, and had guidance from John Little, a green Infrastructure and landscape designer based in Essex who has been leading and developing horticultural designs in different industrial substrates.

“We wanted to explore different ways of using waste materials,” said Owen. “It shows you what you can source locally, which connects to the local geology and be utilised in a biodiversity context.”

To accommodate the varied footfall at the station, the planters and benches are also mobile, meaning they can be rearranged depending on station traffic, or simply to create variety. Local artist Amy Marsden made the oak benches and Angharad Pearce Jones, a blacksmith from Ammanford, made the planters to Griffiths’ design.

“The design of the planters is based on shapes relating to the architecture around the area – they connect to brick detailing on pre- and post-war architecture in and around the square mile of the station, including the concrete relief on the old medical centre on Orchard Street,” said Griffiths.

Griffiths and his team of volunteers filled the 10 planters with plants that reflect the local ecology and encourage biodiversity; bee habitats have been built into them, along with wooden posts with holes for beetles and bugs. The plants include local coastal species, yuccas, pine trees, fig trees, wild strawberries and the same roses that grow at Three Cliffs Bay.

“The idea is that it connects to different kind of landscapes of Swansea and also demonstrates ways of working that don’t require masses of topsoil to be moved,” said Griffiths. “It shows what you can do with a fairly small budget to make a big visual impact and have quite a big impact in terms of biodiversity.”

Planters at Swansea’s High Street train station

Information boards will soon be added to tell visitors more about the scheme, which is set to have even more impact as the plants become established.

Zoe Antrobus, founder and managing director of 4theRegion, is delighted with the effect the scheme has already had.

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“In March 2021 SWWCo held a Shared Vision Meeting for Swansea Train Station and the surrounding area,” she said.

“The meeting attracted local people, businesses and organisations who shared with the group about what they loved about the area and what they’d love to see. We talked about creating a greater sense of place and pride of place, improving community wellbeing, and improving the arrival experience for visitors.

“The station planters project has certainly achieved that. It makes a huge difference to the approach to the station and it’s also spreading an important message about sustainability and bringing more biodiversity to the city centre.

“Lots of people have commented on how much they love the planters, and it’s great to see people sitting on the benches and enjoying the space.”

Planters at Swansea’s High Street train station

Hugh J Evans, Head of Community Rail added: “We’re delighted to have been able to help make this scheme happen.

“It’s enhanced the experience of arriving at Swansea Railway Station and Owen has put the project together with real thought and care, drawing in not only local plants but also references to the local area.

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“The materials used are sustainable and also local, and biodiversity is at the core of the project. It’s a pleasure to see the impact it’s already had on the area.”

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