PATIENTS and visitors at York Hospital will soon be able to benefit from a new place to relax outdoors.

Work is underway to transform an unused outdoor space at York Hospital to create a sensory peace garden for staff, patients and visitors – with the help of a generous donation from York Rotary Club.

The club members held a virtual Dragon Boat race at the start of the pandemic, raising funds by asking individuals to use their imagination to recreate the race at home.

The challenge raised a phenomenal £20,150, and the focus was very much towards a new outdoor wellbeing area to provide a relaxing area for NHS staff and patients.

For Rotary Club council member Brian Joscelyne the project was very close to his heart after his daughter suddenly developed a life threatening illness that left her paralysed and in intensive care in York Hospital for three months.

Brian said: “It was a terrible time for the family as none of us could visit because of the pandemic. My daughter was unable to see her children for the nine months it took her to recover.

“The first time we were able to meet up was outside in one of the hospital courtyards and it was the most wonderful moment for us all. My daughter was overjoyed to get some fresh air and be outdoors after such a long time in intensive care. The pandemic really brought home how important these spaces are to people who work in hospitals and for patients and visitors, especially at stressful times.”

The garden will have an accessible walkway to encourage movement and the clever use of a circular path will allow access for wheelchairs and hospital beds so loved ones can be together. There will be seasonal and leafy plants and a sensory area to create a healing space that fills the senses.

David Fotheringham, President of the York Rotary Club, said: “Despite the pandemic we were keen to continue our fundraising activities and the challenge was to create a virtual Dragon Boat and paddle it 250 metres down the virtual River Ouse. The Ouse is 84 km long so we needed a minimum of 336 volunteers to each paddle like mad in their own Dragon Boat, to move our challenge boat along.

“It was a lot of fun as it was open to interpretation by participants as to how to achieve the equivalent of paddling 250 metres, for example paddling 50 strokes in a bathtub or ‘swimming’ on sun lounger in the garden.”

Rachel Brook, charity manager, said: “Thanks to York Rotary Club we will be able to transform a dreary and inaccessible outdoor space and make it an area where staff can take a break, spend a bit of time reflecting or just enjoy the sun. It will be open for anyone in the hospital to use and without doubt will help with people’s wellbeing.”

The peace garden is one of a series of outside spaces to be refurbished with funds raised during the pandemic from a variety of donors to create wellbeing areas to improve staff and patient wellbeing.