Blossoming inclusivity: Horatio’s Garden shines at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023 | Bolt Burdon Kemp Blossoming inclusivity: Horatio’s Garden shines at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023 | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Blossoming inclusivity: Horatio’s Garden shines at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023

As World Spinal Cord Injury Day approaches, I find myself reflecting on my experience of volunteering for Horatio’s Garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

As a spinal injury solicitor committed to improving the lives of those with a spinal cord injury (“SCI”) and advocating for a greater inclusivity in society, I feel very privileged to share my experience volunteering for a wonderful SCI charity, Horatio’s Garden during the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May 2023.

This event has not only marked a significant milestone for the charity (showcasing their immersive and fully inclusive garden for the first time and receiving well-deserved recognition by winning a Gold Medal and the “Best in Show” award) but has been, in my view, a real testament to a broader societal awakening, a recognition of the importance of inclusivity, and a celebration of diversity in all its forms.

As long-standing supporters and regional partners of Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville and Horatio’s Garden London & South East, we’ve been privileged to witness the gardens’ restorative and rehabilitative impact, offering solace to those navigating the complexities of spinal injuries. I therefore invite you to join me on a journey through the heartwarming world of Horatio’s Garden to see the impact the charity has on the lives of those living with spinal cord injuries and the importance of the Charity’s recognition at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023.

Nurturing hope and healing: The impact of Horatio’s Garden

If you happen to be scrolling through my blogs, you will quickly realise that I am a hugely passionate (and possibly a bit obsessed) advocate of this charity and their wonderful work.  Here are just some of my other blogs about Horatio’s Garden. At the heart of Horatio’s Garden lies a mission to create vibrant, fully accessible gardens in spinal injury centres across the UK. These gardens are designed not only to be visually stunning but also to serve as spaces of healing promoting physical as well as emotional recovery. As a regular volunteer, I’ve witnessed firsthand the positive impact these gardens have on patients by offering often much needed solace, inspiration, and a connection to nature during their recovery.

Designing inclusivity: Triumphs of accessibility at Chelsea

Horatio’s Garden’s presence at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show was nothing short of triumphant.

The show garden so thoughtfully designed by Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg with wheelchair and hospital bed accessibility in mind also told stories of resilience, hope and innovation. The designers have created this entirely new, environmentally friendly path surface, allowing pain-free movement for those using wheelchairs for the first time. This cement-free terrazzo-style surface, made from crushed waste, was not only smooth but also aesthetically pleasing. It’s the little things like this that show how much thought went into making the garden truly inclusive.

The Garden Room, with its warm timber shingle, felt like a cozy nook where one could find solace. Inside, an artwork made of thousands of clay thumbprints (including one of mine!) belonging to many of those who contributed to the amazing work of this charity and/or helped to bring this unique garden to life. As part of its lasting impact, the Garden Room will be transported to the Princess Royal Spinal Injuries Centre in Sheffield where it will become a permanent feature of the garden due to be built hopefully soon, once the necessary funds are raised, offering patients with spinal injuries a serene space for contemplation and healing.

The water feature was another personal favourite. Raised at just the right height for someone in a wheelchair, it had these unique cutlery casts (a subtle bow to history of Sheffield– aka “ The City of Steel”) that gently brimmed with water. The stone cairns dotted around the garden were more than just stones. They symbolised guidance, especially for those finding their way after a spinal injury.

Everywhere I looked, from the plants influenced by the Rivelin Valley to the thoughtful placements of garden features for diverse views, I felt the designers’ and the Charity’s commitment to put those rehabilitating after and living with a spinal cord injury at the centre stage.

Volunteer insights: connecting hearts and spinal cord injury awareness

My time volunteering at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show was a humbling experience. It has quickly become apparent to me that visitors didn’t just come to admire the vibrant flora and striking design; they came to engage, to learn, and to understand. While questions about plant varieties and design features were plentiful, what truly touched me were the conversations about the real impact of Horatio’s Garden on patients’ lives. Visitors were captivated by personal anecdotes of patients finding solace in the gardens and connecting with nature.

The overwhelming interest from visitors eager to learn about spinal cord injuries and the work of Horatio’s Garden was most inspiring for me.

As someone who regularly talks with those living with spinal injuries, I am acutely aware of the challenges still present for them in our society and the need for us to create a more inclusive and empowering community. My experience volunteering at this event reminds me that every moment spent advocating for spinal cord injury awareness brings us closer to a more inclusive society.

Society’s awakening: Chelsea Flower Show’s role in inclusivity

As we approach World Spinal Cord Injury Day, capturing my volunteering experience of this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in this blog and casting a real spotlight on Horatio’s Garden feels very timely and essential. The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, with its global audience and esteemed reputation, has provided a platform to bring these crucial issues to the forefront. It’s a heartening reminder that we’re moving in the right direction, where events of such grandeur and influence prioritise and highlight the importance of inclusivity and full participation.

I hope that the accolades and attention Horatio’s Garden received at Chelsea are a real testament to a broader societal awakening and a sign of the times.

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