THE campaign to build a hospice in Winchester has enlisted the support of Britain’s best known gardener.

Alan Titchmarsh, who is best known for hosting the BBC garden makeover series Ground Force, visited Burrell House at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital (RHCH) – the site of the planned hospice – to put the first spade in the ground in what will become the Winchester Hospice garden.

Alan, who is also the chancellor of the Winchester University and who lives near Alton said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity to have this space within the grounds of Winchester Hospice to create a place where patients and their loved ones can spend time together enjoying the outdoors.

“The reason I’m a gardener is because I feel better when I’m in a garden, and I hope that those who will use the garden will feel the same.

“It’s easy to visualise what a fantastic space this will be for patients and their families and I really look forward to seeing this space transform.

“I wish everyone involved with Winchester Hospice the best as they continue to fundraise to create this hospice for the local community.”

As well as putting his green fingers to work, Alan was also shown around Burrell House.

As previously reported, a £3million fundraising campaign is currently under way to transform the building on Romsey Road into a much-needed 10-bed hospice and palliative care hub, providing specialist care for patients.

Nick Vaughan, chairman of the fundraising charity’s board of trustees, said: “It was fantastic to welcome Alan Titchmarsh and representatives from the University of Winchester and Hillier Nurseries to have a look around Burrell House.

“I would like to thank them all for their support and for taking time to hear all about Winchester Hospice. The garden will be a peaceful place for patients and their families and friends and having Alan here today has got us off to the best possible start.”

Alex Whitfield, chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which runs the RHCH and will manage Winchester Hospice, added: “We are all thrilled to have received Alan’s support and to have had the opportunity to tell him why Winchester Hospice will be such a vital addition to the services we are able to offer to the local community.

“Winchester Hospice will enable us to provide outstanding care and support to patients and their families at what is a very difficult time, and we know that providing a special outdoor space is just one of the ways we can do this.”

As well as providing inpatient care, Winchester Hospice will provide a hub for specialist palliative care in the community through outpatient services, therapies and caring for people in their own homes.

As there is no hospice currently located in the city of Winchester, patients with life limiting illnesses and their families can often spend a considerable amount of time travelling back and forth from their homes to receive care or visit a loved one.