Young people transform their environment through new garden space

Posted: 09/01/19

Artist's impresssion of the new garden space at Alnwood - sketch by Clive Kemp

Children and young people at a Newcastle hospital have seen their environment transformed by a new activity garden.

The garden facilities at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW)’s Alnwood unit in Gosforth were fully redeveloped in summer and autumn 2018, with new features including outdoor furniture, garden walls decorated in bright colours, improved sitting areas and new horticultural beds.

The Alnwood unit provides secure inpatient assessment and treatment for young people up to 18 years who have complex mental health needs, including those with a learning disability.

The renovation was made possible thanks to funding from the Shine fund, NTW’s dedicated charity which exists to provide extras that can make a real difference to patients and service users, from items of comfort to leisure equipment or therapeutic activities.

Our garden project has been a huge success, and will provide lasting opportunities and valuable experiences for our young people. Many of the children and young people at Alnwood have extremely complex needs and difficult backgrounds, and haven’t had the opportunity to take part in activities and build life skills which most people take for granted.

To even begin such a large project as this required a significant level of investment, and we’re hugely grateful to the Shine fund as well as NTW’s Estates team for their vital support. We’re also really pleased that our young people were closely involved in the garden renovation, enabling them to take ownership of the area and be creative in a cooperative group environment.

Geoff CottrellSpecialist Activities Coordinator at Alnwood

I think the garden is much better now. We had a great time in the summer and during half term with garden parties especially the pizza oven even though my pizza turned out a bit burnt.

A young person at Alnwood

I really enjoyed working in the garden over the summer. I got to do things like constructing the decking and garden beds, we landscaped the area, laid the grass turf and constructed the garden seats and swing. It’s a great place now.

Another service user at Alnwood

The new Alnwood garden includes a new horticultural area for flowers, fruit and vegetables to be grown, as well as a sensory area, newly-decorated wall murals, and space for vocational activities such as cycle maintenance, plumbing and engine mechanics.

The garden area also includes new equipment such as a swing bench seat, patio outdoor seats and lawn areas. The renovation now makes it possible for the garden to be used for social events such as live music, pizza nights and barbecues.

The garden is just one small part of the comprehensive package of care and treatment offered to every young person at Alnwood alongside a structured day which includes a full timetable of educational activities.

The children and young people in the unit are fully involved in co-producing their own goals for therapy, education, activities and nursing care, and have also influenced Alnwood itself, for example by decorating educational and recreational areas.

As well as facilities like the Alnwood Garden, grants from the Shine fund have supported a wide range of educational and vocational activities across NTW’s services, as well as organisations supported by NTW such as the Recovery College Collective in central Newcastle.

Future plans for the Alnwood garden include introducing new vocational activities such as cycle maintenance classes and ceramics-making.  The young people on the unit are also planning to organise future fundraising events in spring and summer 2019 to raise money for the Shine fund.

Find out more about how to support the Shine fund on NTW’s JustGiving page at

Read more about Alnwood here