201703-Yin-Richard-Dr May15 Never underestimate the importance of a green space, albeit a small one

201703-Onslow-Rd-Practice-Garden Feb17It may be merely symbolic but, for me, our surgery garden is an extension of what we do as doctors. We all know that the major determinants of health sit outside consulting rooms and hospitals so here’s the story of our very own green space.

A few years ago the original garden in front of the surgery was looking pretty forlorn so we decided to plant fruit trees and vegetables. We had lots of enthusiasm but hadn’t planned for the weeds, the fruit-flies and the couch grass. So, with minimal time and zero horticultural skill on our part, nature took its course.

We quickly became a blot on the landscape.

This time around we thought about space, ease of maintenance and functionality and there was no shortage of good ideas bouncing back and forth. There were doctors keen on permaculture and sustainability, ideas that are very much part of our practice ethos.

So there we all were on a Sunday morning, a very unprofessional-looking group of doctors eradicating all traces of our previous efforts. As we began to build the new garden it generated a lot of interest in the local community, ranging from amazement to appreciation.

When the first lot of benches went in it looked like a mini-Stonehenge!

On a number of occasions I’ve walked out to the garden to call in the next patient and we’ve started the consult right there, surrounded by plants and under a blue sky. I could feel the day’s accumulated stress gently leaving my body. There’s plenty of good evidence that gardening is therapeutic and it’s easy to understand why.

And, while what we do within the practice is important, so too are the social bonds of friends, families and community. Our garden contributes to social capital and that’s a wonderful thing to share with the local primary school across the road. Every afternoon a flock of parents descend for the school pick-up and some of them spend time in the garden.

We’re very proud of our small, quiet, green space and it reminds us all of the importance of a healthy environment and an equally healthy workplace.

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