The founder and Chair of Trustees at Horatio’s Garden scatters the seeds of her online inspiration.

After Dr Olivia Chapple’s 17-year-old son Horatio tragically died in a polar bear attack eight years ago, she and her family wanted his legacy to be one that would both honour him and help others. An aspiring doctor, Horatio was a regular volunteer at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury during his school holidays, and it was the patient research he conducted there that established the need for the creation of a beautiful garden.

It seemed, then, an apt tribute to her beloved son to create just such an oasis in his name. Eight years on, Horatio’s Garden has become a sanctuary for patients with life-changing spinal injuries, as well as for their families and friends. The gardens – plural now, for Olivia and her team have presided over some six NHS Spinal Centres rolled out across the country now – are each designed by an eminent gardener (the first by Cleve West, a winner of no fewer than six RHS gold medals at Chelsea Flower Show), and as well as being places of extreme beauty, they also form a backdrop for garden therapy, artists-in-residence and musical concerts. In short, they acknowledge that patients in recovery or learning to live with their injuries need more than medical support. They also need joy, beauty and inspiration. We can think of few better ways to give that gift than via so wonderful a garden.

Here Olivia tells us how Radio 4 – and occasionally even The Archers – is an imperative redolent of childhood for her, and why the screensaver on her phone keeps her keeping on.



My favourite website...

is the Horatio’s Garden website for the charity founded as a legacy to my eldest son, Horatio. We work to improve the lives of people affected by spinal injuries by creating and nurturing beautiful gardens in the heart of NHS spinal injury centres. The website is uplifting and beautiful and there is a wonderful online shop selling UK bespoke garden goods and gifts.

My favourite app...

Has got to be BBC Sounds. I love to listen to Radio 4 – the Today programme is a morning must for me (I was once interviewed by John Humphrys on the programme) and I have to admit to being an occasional Archers listener, mainly as I find its longevity comforting and it reminds me of lunchtimes in my childhood.

My favourite blog...

Is that of the wonderful James Alexander-Sinclair – he is a genius at communicating interest with such humour and great photographs. James designed Horatio’s Garden Scotland in Glasgow, which is a testimony to his horticultural brilliance.

My Internet hero...

is Magnus, my youngest son who has launched his music career online.

My favourite podcast...

has got to be Fortunately by Fi and Jane. It has me in stitches when I’m travelling between the charity’s garden sites all over the UK.

My favourite YouTuber...

is Yoga with Adriene. I’ve been a fan of Adriene’s for a few years now but currently I am doing the 30 days of yoga through the quarantine with my sister who lives in USA. It’s a shared focus and a few moments of calm to start my day



My most recent buy online...

De Jager bulbs – I’ve gone big on lime green and purple gladioli in Horatio’s Garden this year. I plan to harvest them and give to my neighbours as part of the Give to Grow campaign to support the charity. I’m also sowing masses of salad leaves of all sorts of varieties.

Last book you downloaded or read...

I’m reading The Well Gardened Mind by Dr Sue Stuart-Smith, which is a beautifully written exploration of the interconnection between gardens and mental health. Sue’s interviewed patients in Horatio’s Garden for the book and found out first-hand what a moving impact our gardens have on patients facing life changing injuries. Sue’s husband Tom Stuart-Smith designed Horatio’s Garden London for the charity, which is currently under construction.

Favourite tweeter...

@horatiosgarden. Our lively social media channel connects with supporters, patients, gardeners and sponsors – there are so many people who understand the interconnection between gardens and health.

Favourite Instagrammer...

Frank Gardner takes the most incredible bird photographs – his images bring awe about the natural world and remind me of the importance of treasuring our habitats for birds. All our gardens have bird feeders and the bird song can be heard in the wards. What a beautiful sound to start the day.

Favourite tech gadget...

I’ve recently bought a mini projector. It fits in my hand and I can give a wireless presentation anywhere!

The most useful gadget on your desk...

I’m not sure that it’s really a gadget, but my fountain pen is my most used item on my desk for writing thank you letters to people who have kindly donated to the charity. My other essential desk item is a pot of Horatio’s Garden hand cream – in these times of constant handwashing our hand cream, made with pure oils and botanicals by a medical herbalist, is a top seller.



First thing/app you look at on your mobile when you wake up/in the morning...

I don’t look at my mobile first thing when I wake up. I like to go for a dog walk and love a morning nature fix, no matter what the weather, before looking at my phone.

Brands have you discovered online...

Weaver Green – brilliant handwoven rugs made from recycled plastic. They have kindly donated rugs to the charity which patients use in the garden. They feel like wool but are totally washable.

My screensaver is...

A picture of Horatio, my eldest son who was killed when he was 17. In the photo we are walking together and he’s turned to give me the thumbs up. Every time I open my phone it’s as if he’s beside me saying ‘keep going’. He would be 25 now and I miss him more than words can say.

My standout online memory...

Setting up online platforms for Horatio’s Garden charity.

My pet online hate is...

Junk email.

Do you have any online rules or resolutions (such as a time your religiously switch off devices, for example?) ...

I don’t take my mobile upstairs!

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?

Good. Especially in the current crisis, it’s become a vital way for the world to connect and is keeping so many people going who would otherwise be isolated. Above all I love that I can What’s App my 91-year-old mother.

By Nancy Alsop
May 2020

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