Beautiful Sunshine for the occasion thank you Sophie 💜  So proud of what your helping the hospice achieve…

The story of the Chelsea Garden

It was in June 2015 when the Earl Mountbatten Hospice learned that it could create Matthew Wilson’s Chelsea Garden on our own grounds. Today marks the culmination of a process that has drawn on over a year of skill and commitment from a wide range of contributors.

Matthew’s garden was originally sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada as part of its Blue Water project, focused on water management and the preservation of fresh water. In addition to its aesthetic qualities – it ‘celebrates the curve’ in his words, and is framed by three substantial trees –it is a zero- irrigation ‘dry’ garden and contains edible as well as purely ornamental plants.

The involvement of the Greenfingers charity has been crucial in the transition from Chelsea to Halberry Lane.  Matthew is a trustee. The charity has now helped create over fifty gardens for children in hospices and their families. Emma Hanford, Garden Projects Manager, has said that with this garden ‘the idea is to bring everything that happens in the hospice outside into the fresh air’. It will provide a tranquil and supportive space, adapted to the specific needs of its users.

Although Earl Mountbatten Hospice has previously focused on adult hospice care, it has expanded its services to local children who need hospice care, along with their families, who have previously needed to travel to the mainland for treatment.  The relocated garden forms part of the Hospice’s offering to young patients giving them a beautifully designed outdoor space in which to relax.

Gemma Blamire and Aaron Rolf, whose daughter Sophie was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in 2012, have spearheaded the need for children’s hospice services on the Island.  The provision of children’s care on the Isle of Wight, which the Chelsea Garden will add to, is part of Sophie’s ongoing legacy to help other children with life limiting conditions.

The building of the garden began in January this year. Craig Ratcliff is the owner of C.A.R Gardens, the island firm who have handled the project. It hasn’t been easy. To begin with, the rectangular shape of the original had to be adapted to a semi-circle.’ Things have had to bend and change a bit to make it work’ he says. Starting in January, given the British climate, presented problems. The first month was ‘really tough’. The weather was awful and his team needed to put in ‘a lot of drainage: big trenches, big drainpipes’.  But they have clearly succeeded in the aim of transforming a hard space into something beautiful.

In May Matthew Wilson himself visited the site to start the planting up. He said during his visit ‘It’s wonderful to see the garden being created once again in a new and very worthy home’. Only two weeks ago on July 4th the final major push took place, with further planting that drew on a whole range of local contributions, from the involvement of Forest Road Nursery to volunteer support from people from different backgrounds. Chris Frost, recently of HSBC, said’ I know nothing about gardening, but I’m starting to learn…hopefully I’m not taking up any flowers when they should be weeds!’ whereas Ian Symon has years of experience , formerly working in the gardens at the hospice and still providing plants from his home. Both though have strong personal attachments to the hospice through relatives who spent their last days here. As does volunteer Sue Clerkin, who alongside Bob Durrant has put a lot into this garden as with all the hospice’s gardens. Preparing this Mediterranean-style garden has reminded Sue of her days in Gibraltar, which gives it ‘something extra special’ for her.

Without doubt all those who have given their time to the project have succeeded in creating what Chief Executive Nigel Hartley trusted they would: ‘a truly inspiring place for play and relaxation.’