|Larbert Woods soon to be unveiled|
The woodland on the ground of Forth Valley Royal Hospital, known as Larbert Woods, has been transformed since 2011 and work is soon to be finished. NHS FVRH, Forestry Commission Scotland, Central Scotland Forest Trust and Falkirk Council have been working together to improve the green space for staff, patients, visitors and the local community.
In addition, the project is making a major contribution to the Central Scotland Green Network, one of Scotland’s National Developments.
Greening up the NHS estate
Larbert Woods is part of the Commission’s ‘Green Exercise Partnership’ that encourages local health boards and local authorities to improve hospital grounds for health and wellbeing purposes. FVRH is the first hospital in Scotland to enhance its green space and more hospitals will follow next year including Gartnavel and Ninewells.
The aim is to encourage staff, patients, visitors and the local community to use the woods for physical activity, recreation and relaxation.
A huge amount has already been achieved at Larbert Woods including extensive rhododendron clearing to expose a loch and repairing an atmospheric Victorian sluice. New paths have been constructed throughout the woodland as well as an outdoor classroom for local schools to use.
Forestry Commission Scotland recently launched of a pilot woodland rehabilitation programme for a small group of FVRH cardiac patients. It ran for three hours each week over a six week period to help patients relax and slowly rebuild their strength in the outdoors.
Lindsay Scott, Senior Physiotherapist at FVRH said: "We started this project, which is unique in the UK, as part of research to encourage people to use hospital green spaces more.
“We have had a wonderful setting here, and our patients have thoroughly enjoyed getting outdoors and exercising. We have seen real improvements in their positivity and mental wellbeing. The patients have more confidence in getting around outdoors, and we got to know them much better.
The Commission organised a number of events in 2012 which were extremely well attended by local people. In October 2012, local residents, FVRH staff and patients took part in a fun health day in the grounds of Larbert House.
At Halloween there was a spooky guided walk along with a storyteller giving the opportunity for children to explore the green space with their families. Pupils from Larbert Village Primary School enjoyed a Ranger led tour of the woods and a talk about the trees and wildlife.
Over the winter months there have been additional path improvements and landscaping taking place, including path work and planting around the loch and woodland thinning. In March, a loch side viewing platform will open on the foundations of a former boathouse. Its position and construction will create spectacular views.
Once the path improvements and the loch side viewing platform have been completed, Larbert Woods will have an official opening event to open its invisible doors for local people, hospital staff and patients - this is planned for late Spring.
Forestry Commission Scotland has appointed an on-site community ranger, Gordon Harper, who is responsible for overseeing site developments, liaising with FVRH, engaging with local groups and will arrange a number of community events for 2013.