Dr Rachel Bragg, OBE

Dr Bragg is a passionate advocate for using nature in all its forms to benefit human health. Rachel has been actively involved in the development and promotion of green care, care farming, and STH sectors in the UK for the last twenty years. As a researcher and author of important publications in relation to the full spectrum of nature for heath from the Green care conceptual framework to Nature based interventions in Mental Health Rachel is well placed to provide the keynote address.

Rachel is a Visiting Fellow in the Green Exercise Research Team at the University of Essex, where she was a senior researcher for 18 years. Her primary research interest lies in the relationship between nature, human health, and mental wellbeing, specifically focusing on 'green care' and 'nature connection'. She is a leading academic in care farming and a member of the Therapeutic Horticulture Stakeholder Group. Rachel is also well known for her expertise in Participatory Appraisal and Action Research training, facilitation skills, questionnaire and fieldwork design, and evaluation of nature-based interventions.

In 2021, Dr Bragg was recognised for her work and received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to academia and green care. Rachel now works as an independent consultant and facilitator, assisting organisations with strategic visioning, organisational development, and Theory of Change. Additionally, she serves as a research advisor for several charities.

Dr. Sue Stuart-Smith, author of The Well Gardened Mind

Sue Stuart-Smith, a prominent psychiatrist and psychotherapist, graduated in English literature at Cambridge University before going on to train as a Psychiatrist. She worked in the National Health Service for many years, becoming the lead clinician for psychotherapy in Hertfordshire. Her book, The Well Gardened Mind, was published in 2020 and became a Sunday Times bestseller and a Times and Sunday Times book of the year. It has since been translated into eighteen languages. Her background in psychiatry and psychotherapy provide her with a very firm grasp on how gardening and plants are good for everyone’s health. She currently works for DocHealth, a not-for-profit service that helps doctors suffering from stress and burnout. Along with her husband Tom, she has founded a not-for-profit initiative called The Serge Hill Project for Gardening, Creativity, and Health which incorporates a Plant Library and is based in an old orchard at their home in Hertfordshire.

Sam Alford, Head of Nature Connections at The Eden Project

Having originally trained as a play therapist, Sam spent many years working in children and family services, supporting children and young people, who were on the safeguarding register or at risk of significant harm. Her whole career has been in the health and social care arena and she has worked for the NHS, local government and the not-for-profit sector.

Over the last 20 years she has worked in service development and commissioning. Key achievements include setting up a play therapy service in an alcohol treatment centre for children affected by parental alcohol problems or who were drinking themselves; establishing, delivering and scaling a family support service in primary care, akin to a social prescribing service and remodelling adult day services for the local authority; developing and running two small social enterprises.

During her career, Sam has led several national trail blazers, including most recently the national cross-governmental Green Social Prescribing Programme to Tackle and Prevent Mental Ill-health. She is currently leading the Eden Project’s Nature Connection Programme on behalf of the Eden Project and partners. Connecting to nature to improve mental health, emotional resilience and wellbeing, resonate strongly with her values, professional experience and personal interests. Sam’s Background and current role leave her well placed to address how multiple health and wellbeing services can be delivered and targeted to multiple groups.

Anna Baker Cresswell, High Ground

Anna founded the Gardening Leave charity in memory of her Mother in 2007. The premise was Horticultural therapy for veterans, in a walled garden setting. In 2013, she established another charity, HighGround. When the late Duke of Westminster built a new Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) at Stanford Hall near Loughborough to replace Headley Court, HighGround was proud to be invited to move with them.

Funded by the Army Benevolent Fund and the Westminster Foundation, she was invited in 2014 to lead a three-year pilot to evaluate the benefits of Horticultural Therapy as a rehabilitation intervention for injured serving personnel. During the Pilot, they delivered 4,072 sessions of Horticultural Therapy to 1,316 patients, and Horticultural Therapy is now an accredited defence output. This experience of using STH in a therapeutic model as part of a multidisciplinary approach is well placed within the conference theme.

Dr Olivia Chapple

Olivia is the founder and chair of the trustees of Horatio's Garden, a charity creating and nurturing beautifully designed, fully accessible garden projects in the heart of NHS spinal injury centres to support people affected by spinal injury. The pioneering charity works with leading garden designers and architects to create sustainable, biodiverse gardens in challenging clinical environments, bringing nature's benefits close to those facing life-changing injuries. The gardens are social spaces and everyone – patients and NHS staff are encouraged to connect with nature with dramatic impact on mental and physical health. Horatio’s gardens provide a great insight into the way gardens can be supportive of all in clinical care.

Under Olivia’s leadership the charity has grown over twelve years and now has seven thriving garden projects across the UK and thousands of beneficiaries. Horatio’s Garden won Gold and Best in Show at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2023 and in 2021 Olivia was presented with the Royal Horticultural Society's prestigious Carew Pole Award for Contribution to Horticulture by a non-horticulturist.

Other speakers

With 24 other speakers covering different approaches to using nature and horticulture, different settings from schools to palliative care and different methodologies for assessing the impact the presentations will offer a richness across the symposium theme. Additionally, we have 11 poster presentations, interesting discussion groups and great networking opportunities during the evening meal and break times. The 16th IPPS provides an incredible opportunity to continue your own learning and the development of your real-world aspirations for using horticulture for health.

This extensive line up provides the fullest conference in our sector to date in the UK.