Tiverton Hospital case study

Tiverton and District Hospital Wildlife Garden, Devon


Tiverton Hospital Wildlife garden consists of some simple and cost-effective enhancements to a previously un-used green space which have made the area more ‘wildlife-friendly’.

Project description

Tiverton Hospital sits on a constrained site with little open space other than a small grassy area between the hospital and site boundary which seemed to have little potential for therapeutic use. However, being located on the edge of the town and next to playing fields and a recreation ground, the area was identified as having potential to become more suited to wildlife.

A surgeon working at the hospital was a keen supporter of wildlife gardens and was also very knowledgeable about the requirements of individual species. He worked with the grounds maintenance team to introduce a series of small-scale improvements to the grassy space to attract wildlife and to provide new habitats.

A small amount of funding was secured from the local Rotary Club for an interpretation board to explain the improvements to the public and the work was carried out with the help of volunteers. Using free materials, the whole project was created for less than £2,000. Patients who previously looked onto a ‘green desert’ of close-mown grass can now enjoy watching the hedgehog at dusk emerging from his new ‘house’ to forage in the meadow areas for beetles.

The improved garden boasts a wide range of flora and a wealth of animal life, including Bank Voles; mason, solitary and bumble bees; at least five species of butterflies; and a wide variety of birds visiting and nesting on the site. Changes to grass-cutting have allowed some of the grass to grow longer and wild flowers to re-appear: other wild flowers have also been planted in informal flower-beds, with species chosen to attract and provide a food source for endangered species of butterflies.

Key achievement

The new wildlife garden shows clearly that even with a very limited budget and on a small area of land there is always potential to make improvements. On this site an area of grass has been transformed from a ‘green desert’ into a wildlife-rich space full of interesting things to watch from the ward windows which overlook the garden.

What are the health benefits?

Patients in the wards overlooking the garden enjoy the distraction offered by the wildlife they can see there. Being able to watch the sun streaming through the trees and the birds on the feeders promotes relaxation and helps reduce the stress arising from the hospital environment, which in turn helps the healing process.

A clinician’s perspective

“I believe that every garden can contribute to wildlife conservation and that through choosing wildlife friendly but garden worthy plants, even a tiny area of garden can be transformed into a haven for butterflies, birds and a whole range of wildlife.

But I’m not only passionate about the natural world, but also deeply interested in the role that gardens can play in helping people have a healthier mind, body and spirit. Good health is all about balance, and contact with the natural world is key to maintaining that balance, and can even help to restore it when it has been lost”. (Dr. Gavin Haig).

Lessons learnt

  • Bringing wildlife into a space ensures that there is always something to watch and gives an extra incentive to go outside;
  • Improvements can be as simple as changing the maintenance regimes but this needs close monitoring of grounds maintenance staff who may not understand the importance of leaving some grass un-cut;
  • Improving sites for biodiversity can help healthcare facilities meet environmental targets and even contribute to local Biodiversity Action Plans.


Dr. Gavin Haig. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.