Our team of 15 volunteer gardeners do an outstanding job of tending to the hospice’s 22-acre grounds. Here, Susan Parmenter, who co-ordinates the gardening activities, explains her love of nature and why she believes the gardens mean so much to people.
‘I’ve volunteered here for 10 years now. I’ve always been a keen gardener, and when I first visited the hospice I fell in love with the gardens immediately. The scenery is stunning and there was beautiful colour all round but sadly, at the time, due to lack of resources and a very small team, the gardens were overgrown and had become neglected. I couldn’t bear it – the gardens had such potential – and so my volunteering journey began!
‘Over the years the team has grown, and with regular additional volunteering support from local companies, between us we can now keep on top of things. We come in en-masse on a Friday and are responsible for maintenance of the flower beds, which includes lots of digging, pruning, wedding, planting and deadheading. In the winter months we focus on conservation in the woodland; coppicing, cutting back bramble and keeping paths clear of debris for hospice patients and visitors. It keeps us busy and can be hard work but everyone is very passionate, dedicated and determined to make something special of the gardens. With goodwill and determination, you can go a very long way.
‘For me, to be outdoors in such a lovely setting is a true privilege. I adore nature and listening to the sounds of birds, and I am simply never happier than when my hands are in the soil. Gardening is a soothing, calming practice. I think these feelings are echoed by those who enjoy the space; nature’s a good listener and the hospice grounds give people space to relax and be quiet with their thoughts and feelings. I’m also a firm believer that bright flowers can’t help but bring joy, and we often hear that being able to watch life gently going on is a comfort to people.
‘We all garden here because we love it, but of course to hear positive feedback from patients and their families is a huge bonus and keeps us motivated. To know our work makes a difference is very touching.’