Larbert Woods is the UK’s first woodland-based rehabilitation programme for cardiac patients in hospital grounds. The brief was to transform and revitalise the woodland and green space surrounding Forth Valley Royal Hospital, bringing it back into sustainable management and realising the grounds as an asset for health improvement for patients, visitors, staff and local people. Larbert Woods became a high-profile Green Exercise Partnership Demonstration Project, showing how NHS greenspace can be designed, improved and managed for multiple health and wellbeing benefits. As a result of the work that has been done, a local developer, attracted by the redeveloped grounds, has invested £13 million to transform A-listed Larbert house, stable block and walled garden into 20 luxury apartments, 18 mews and 19 detached houses.
Approximate Map Location
Ian White Associates
Forestry Commission Scotland
|Type of scheme|
Reinvigoration of woods and parkland
Parks and gardens
Highly commended LI Awards 2016
70ha (excluding hospital and immediate surrounds)
To transform and revitalise the woodland and greenspace resource surrounding Forth Valley Royal Hospital, bringing it back into sustainable management and realising the grounds as an asset for health improvement for patients, visitors, staff and local people.
Landscape practice: Ian White Associates; client: NHS Forth Valley /Forestry Commission Scotland; landscape practice (interpretation and detail design): Central Scotland Forest Trust (CSFT); contractor: CSFT/Forestry Commission Scotland; additional stakeholders: Falkirk Council, Green Exercise Partnership (A partnership between Forestry Commission, NHS Health Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage)
Larbert House and Estate dates from the late 18th /early 19th centuries, and had been in public ownership since the 1920s, when it was acquired and developed as a hospital for children with learning disabilities.
The Royal Scottish National Hospital (RSNH) provided an attractive setting, with the therapeutic qualities of exposure to fresh air, nature and daylight.
The RSNH closed in the 1990s, and Forth Valley Royal Hospital, was built in 2011 in the grounds of the 130 ha estate. After many years of neglect a partnership was established between NHS Forth Valley (NHSFV), Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), Central Scotland Forest Trust (CSFT) and Falkirk Council (FC) to invigorate the woodlands and parkland setting.
The aim was to bring the outdoor estate back into sustainable management so that staff, patients, visitors and local residents could enjoy the estate for recreation, relaxation and therapeutic activities.
The way the grounds have been used has set a number of precedents:
A UK first - Countryside Ranger (co-funded by FCS & NHSFV) to run a community engagement programme including health walks, a mental health programme called Branching Out - bushcraft, conservation and outdoor Tai Chi classes, enabled patients to work towards the John Muir Trust Award for discovering, exploring and conserving the environment.
UK’s first outdoor, woodland based rehabilitation programme for cardiac patients in hospital grounds.
The National School Curriculum for Excellence requires outdoor learning to be a key component of the syllabus and the Woods have proved to be so popular with local schools, that an online booking system was set up to book the teaching spaces. NHS staff regularly use the grounds for walking meetings.
Successful partnership working, across multiple organisations has since become a demonstration model for other NHS estates.