Basingstoke MP, Maria Miller recently visited Southern Health’s specialist mental health unit, Parklands, with the NHS Trust’s Chief Executive, Dr Nick Broughton and Chair, Lynne Hunt. The tour ended in the gardens of Parklands which are set for a major makeover as part of a joint project with Sparsholt College and Help for Heroes.

Southern Health has linked with the military charity and Sparsholt College’s horticulture team (winners of numerous gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show) to plan a transformation of the tired, under-used outside spaces at Parklands into a special sensory garden for military patients and a second more social, active outdoor space for other patients and visitors.

Parklands is home to a general inpatient mental health ward as well as a specialist ward for serving MoD personnel – treating around 85 people each year from the armed forces with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder, bi-polar and schizophrenia.

As Dr Broughton explained to Maria Miller MP: “There is growing evidence of the therapeutic impact that getting outside and enjoying a garden can have on someone’s mental health. This was the reason behind our staff and volunteers fundraising for the special project – and I’m delighted to confirm that we’ve now raised enough money to start work on the first of our two planned spaces, the sensory garden. This is thanks to large grants from The Armed Forces Covenant Fund, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and the RAF Benevolent Fund, as well contributions from local companies and individuals, plus plenty of staff fundraising too!”

Maria Miller MP added: “I was pleased to catch up with Southern Health, to be able to discuss in more detail how they are providing mental health services in Basingstoke and the improvements in their service provision. It was also really interesting to see Hannah’s design for the new therapeutic sensory garden, which I am sure will be a real benefit for the military patients. The project relies on volunteers and fundraising and it is great news that they have raised enough money to start work on the garden. I will look forward to seeing how it takes shape and progresses.”

The plan is to create the structure of the garden in July and August, including the water feature and the decking area – before beginning planting in September, a time when Southern Health will be looking for more volunteers to support the Help for Heroes veterans already signed up to help.

Horticulture Lecturer, Chris Bird from Sparsholt college said: “Our students are relishing the challenges of working on this live project, designing two very different gardens for the benefit of people who are often at their lowest ebb and in need of positive inspiration from nature. The sensory garden is designed to be a therapeutic space with both stimulating and reflective areas, including familiar scents of herbs supported by the movement of ornamental grasses with a structure of shrubs, providing interest all year round.”

If you’re interested in being a ‘Parklands Volunteer’, email: You can also follow the progress of the gardens via a monthly blog here: and if you would like to support the project, you can donate here:

To find out more about how Help for Heroes uses gardening as a recovery activity for wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans, please visit