Nature Recovery Rangers

In Spring 2021 the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare embedded Nature Recovery Rangers at hospital sites in three locations – Bristol, Liverpool and West London. With support from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund the rangers are running multiple projects at these sites to improve biodiversity while helping patients, staff and community members to enjoy nature. Through their outreach work they involve new volunteers at the hospitals and enhance the sites’ green spaces.

At Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in London, a large close-cropped lawn is being turned into a wildflower meadow and staff are taking part in ‘Primp Your Patch’, a site-wide initiative to create thriving green corners close to where staff work. At Southmead Hospital in Bristol, flower surveys are providing information to enable calculations of the quantity of nectar on site; and mowing was put on hold in May to let wildflowers bloom and provide even more nectar for pollinators. In Liverpool, the installation of vegetable beds, beehives and composting is transforming Broadgreen Hospital into an Incredible Edible site, and staff are  trained to maintain the projects together with patients in the longer term.

Plans for the future include training hospital staff to do butterfly transects, engaging students to build and install hedgehog homes, bat walks and surveys with staff and their families, pressing fruit from hospital trees to make juice to share with patients, wildflower meadow identification and painting sessions, early morning bird watching and ID, developing therapy gardens for patients, running woodland management volunteer days, installing wildlife interpretation and more. 

This innovative partnership is run on a pilot basis and CSH will evaluate its outcomes next year. Already however we can see key strengths in the scheme. The rangers are employed and managed by CSH, providing a connection to national networks and resources and many opportunities to share ideas and experience with each other and CSH staff. But their work is also overseen on a day-to-day basis by NHS managers at their health sites. These staff have their own ambitions and aspirations for the project and can ensure that the rangers’ work is closely tailored to local needs and opportunities. This includes both the potential for reaching new sections of their communities and for developing the ecological and health value of their different sites.

Ginnie Abubakar, Community Engagement Manager at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre comments: “After only eight weeks with a Nature Recovery Ranger in post, it has been incredible to see the level of engagement from staff in the project. From the number of staff teams who, on top of their busy working lives, are involved in improving their local outdoor patch, to the discussions stimulated at an executive level about the importance of incorporating green space design at a new site. At all levels of our organisation staff have been invigorated and are taking part in the project. This should not in fact be surprising as it is a demonstration of the evidence - the benefits of connecting with nature in action. With plans in place for more initiatives for our patients (outdoor waiting rooms and weekly woodland wanders, to name just two) and the involvement of our local community, I am excited about the impacts we will continue to be able to validate. The network of rangers provides valuable support to progress the project still further.” 

Our programme is unlocking the benefits of green heritage at these health sites. NHS hospitals are permanent local landmarks and are often well loved by their nearby communities, who have an interest in both their landscapes and the social history attached to them. The scheme has the potential to make these NHS sites into green hubs for local residents, while also improving wellbeing for patients and staff.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.