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James Alexander Sinclair designs neuro rehabilitation ward garden

by | 20 Jan 20 | Features, News, Projects

James Alexander Sinclair is working with the charity Friends of the Neuro Ward to design a garden on the neuro rehabilitation ward at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen.

Friends of the Neuro Ward, a charity which is entirely volunteer-led, is currently trying to raise funds for the garden and is halfway to its target of £200,000. The charity previously helped to refurbish the Woodend’s Neurorehabilitation Unit before now moving onto the garden of the rehabilitation ward. This is a project that is close to the charity’s president, Caroline Critchlow, heart as her husband has previously suffered from a brain tumour.

The rehabilitation ward is made up of 13 beds which all look out onto the garden. However, it currently doesn’t offer an inspiring view and, although fenced in, it isn’t very safe for the patients who have been known to attempt to leave due to their ailments.

After speaking to one of the patients, Caroline said: “The first thing that one of the patients said to me was ‘we just feel so trapped’. They can be on the ward for up to 18 months, and they can travel from long distances to be here, so it is important that they feel as comfortable as possible when they are here”.

Caroline contacted James Alexander Sinclair after she had heard about his work on the Horatio’s Garden in Glasgow. Discussing how he came to design the garden, James said: “I was invited to help with the garden at Woodend Hospital by the extraordinary Caroline Critchlow – the driving force behind the charity.

“She had seen the garden I had designed for Horatio’s Garden in Glasgow and rang me up out of the blue. We met up in Aberdeen so I could see the garden and talk to the staff and patients about what was needed.

“I was instantly attracted to the place and knew immediately that I wanted to create something interesting here. I have seen at Horatio’s that a garden can completely change the mood of a hospital and can help immeasurably in the recovery of long-term patients.”

The garden’s focus is to be accessible for all of the patients. Portable planters will be on wheels so they can be moved to the patients, and there will be spaces at the end of all benches for patients in wheelchairs to be able to sit with their families. The garden has also been designed so that everything can be moved if the ward is ever relocated.

Speaking about the design of the garden, James Alexander Sinclair said: “The intention at Woodend is to make a new garden with wide paths and deep borders centred around a bespoke building that we have called the Tea Turret – because it looks vaguely like a turret and will house a constantly reliable supply of tea and biscuits – which is being designed by Swain Architects”.

The Tea Turret will be a therapy centre which patients can access whilst still in their beds and will have planetarium lights for them to look up at. As well as this, the whole garden will have lights, offering a dazzling view for patients in the ward at night.

Both Caroline and James Alexander Sinclair see the upkeep of the garden as a high priority and, once the garden is built, will be having a neuro garden therapist working in the garden with the patients. They then hope that if they receive enough funding, she will then be able to visit some of the patients once they return home to continue garden therapy with them.

If you would like to make a donation of either money or materials, please contact Caroline Kritchlow at

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