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Ulster Rugby Help Charity Horatio’s Garden Plant Hope for Patients at Musgrave Park Hospital

24th February 2023

Staff and patients on the Horatio's Garden site at Musgrave Park Hospital

Belfast Trust were delighted to welcome Ulster Rugby to the Spinal Cord Injuries Unit to celebrate the beginning of the build of Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland. The charity Horatio’s Garden have partnered with Ulster Rugby to fundraise for the first ever therapeutic garden in NI.

Ulster players Rob Baloucoune, Matty Rea and Sean Reffell gathered at the site with Consultant in Rehabilitation at The Spinal Cord Injuries Unit, Dr Suzanne Maguire, Horatio’s Garden Founder & Chair of Trustees, Dr Olivia Chapple, and the construction team from McCusker Contracts Ltd, who all came together to celebrate breaking ground on the project with patients, their loved ones and NHS staff.

Horatio’s Garden first announced plans to create Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland in 2021. Since then, the charity has been fundraising to bring the beautiful, restorative garden to life to support the physical and psychological rehabilitation of everyone affected by spinal injury across Northern Ireland. The garden is supported by Belfast Health & Social Care Trust, MITRE and the National Garden Scheme, supplemented by generous donations from both organisations and individuals.

The final fundraising push is underway, with a community appeal supported by Ulster Rugby and match-funded by an incredible anonymous donor raising more than £6,000 so far. The total will be bolstered by further events with Ulster Rugby at the close of the 2022-23 season.

Dr Olivia Chapple, Horatio’s Garden Founder & Chair of Trustees, said: “We would like to thank everyone who has generously supported this project with donations, time and expertise. Horatio’s Garden in Belfast will change lives for the many families facing the devastation of spinal cord injury from across Northern Ireland.”

Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said: “We are really pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Horatio’s Garden this season, and it’s great that the team are now at the stage where they are able to break ground on the garden for Musgrave Park Hospital. Together with some of the professional squad, I enjoyed meeting with patients at the spinal unit who will benefit from the garden, and to hear directly what a huge impact it will have when complete.”

He added, “At Ulster Rugby, we feel it’s important to have a nominated charity partner, and we will continue to do what we can to promote the impressive work of Horatio’s Garden as it progresses its plans for the Belfast build, whether that be through raising profile and funds, or visiting and volunteering in the months ahead.”

Like all the charity’s six existing gardens, Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland has been thoughtfully designed in collaboration with patients, their loved ones and NHS staff to improve people’s psychological outcomes and physical wellbeing. With the Spinal Cord Injuries Unit supporting over 70 inpatients and 1,200 outpatients annually, the new garden will be a home away from home for people spending many months in hospital adjusting to their injuries., including people spending time in the Amputee Rehabilitation Unit which has a total of eight beds.

Dr Suzanne Maguire, Consultant in Rehabilitation at the Spinal Cord Injuries Unit, shared: “It is my hope that having a Horatio’s Garden at the spinal unit in Musgrave Park Hospital will transform the lives of patients during their time in rehabilitation. The garden will allow patients to escape the clinical environment and experience the happiness and freedom brought about by plants and flowers.”

Alan Patterson, a former patient at the spinal unit and current Aspire Independent Living Advisor, said: “Horatio’s Garden will be such a great place for patients and their loved ones. When I had visitors to the unit, there was never really a space where we could have privacy, or it always felt very clinical being in a hospital. The garden will be a brilliant place for people to get outdoors away from the ward, which will hopefully help them physically and emotionally, and will provide a peaceful sanctuary for them to spend time with family and friends as everyone adjusts to the life-changing injury.”

Andy Sturgeon’s design incorporates a garden room, greenhouse, dedicated event space, boccia court and garden pods, ensuring the horticultural haven can be enjoyed by everyone all year round.

He added: “It’s very exciting to start the build to transform this space into Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland. It’s clear that this garden will have a remarkably positive and restorative effect on people’s lives and wellbeing and I can’t wait to see it start making a difference.”

Once open, Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland will be run by a Head Gardener and a team of volunteers. The charity organises regular gardening workshops, creative workshops, live music performances and seasonal events, which all complement the NHS team’s clinical care to support patients as much as possible throughout their rehabilitation. Horatio’s Garden will become the place where people can spend quality time with their friends, family and other patients, whilst it will also offer people somewhere to quietly contemplate their past, present and future.

To find out more and support Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland, visit

Watch the video below to find out more about the visit and hear from patients about the impact they think Horatio’s Garden will have.