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Volunteer gardeners speak of joy of working in sensory gardens

PUBLISHED: 14:53 06 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:10 06 June 2018

Carlton Court volunteer gardeners Jennifer Manson, Pauline Elliott, Jenny Pye, and John Elliott. Picture: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Carlton Court volunteer gardeners Jennifer Manson, Pauline Elliott, Jenny Pye, and John Elliott. Picture: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

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At a Suffolk hospital, herbs and fruit trees provide a sensory experience for dementia patients that they care for.

Carlton Court volunteer gardener Pauline Elliott. Picture: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation TrustCarlton Court volunteer gardener Pauline Elliott. Picture: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

And this fantastic resource is only available thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers.

As part of Volunteer’s Week which is giving people the chance to celebrate volunteering, Pauline Elliott and Jenny Pye spoke of their time working at Carlton Court Hospital in Lowestoft.

The two women, along with a group of five volunteers, meet weekly to maintain the garden which was overhauled and redesigned a decade ago.

The garden includes a meadow, woodland, orchard, Mediterranean and sea gardens. Ms Elliott said: “We all find the garden very rewarding.

“It gives us a lovely opportunity to work in a hospital environment and know that we are contributing just a little bit to the wellbeing of the patients there.”

The garden originally included plants which stimulate the senses with herbs, fruit trees, alongside nooks and crannies to give patients extra privacy.

Ms Elliott added: “Some of the elements also provide a stimulus to the memory – one of my favourite moments in the garden, for example, was listening to a patient who would lean on the farm gate which leads into the meadow and tell me all about his life as a shepherd.

“I’m sure without the gate being there, he wouldn’t have had those memories come to mind.”

She added: “The service users seem to really appreciate the garden, while relatives like to take their loved ones out of the ward environment and into the outside space. It’s lovely to know you are helping to enable them to do that.

“As volunteers, we have all been surprised at how much personally we’ve got from it – its good exercise, we’ve made really good friends and its become a social event for us as well, which is great.”

Cliff Cook, who lives in Beccles, helped create the outside space while a day patient and credits it with making a massive difference to his life.

He said: “I worked on a farm when I first left school and ended up building roads, so have worked outside all my life.

“I really enjoy gardening and found that working at Carlton Court really helped me.

“I’m now doing really well and am getting on with life and enjoying myself, taking each day as it comes. Hopefully I am proof that you can live well with dementia.”


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