There's an obvious rapport among the members of the Westbury Fields retirement village craft group in Westbury-on-Trym, busily chatting away while they work on their latest projects in the run up to Christmas. We dropped in to speak to lifelong crafters Joan and Rose about the sense of community it's given them and their top tips for beginners this festive season.
We would never have done half the things we have if we hadn’t have come here.
Tell us a bit about yourselves. Have you always lived in Bristol and when did you move to Westbury Fields?
Joan: Originally I came from Essex and then we had about 35 years in Bath until my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We realised that we would have to downsize and find somewhere else to live at that point. We looked all around Bath and couldn’t find anything with the space and activity that Westbury Fields offers. So that’s why we chose to come here.
Rose: I left Derbyshire when I was 7 and moved to Torque with my family. Then when I was about 23 I moved up to Bristol and got married. We lived in Coalpit Heath and when my husband died 4 years ago I realised the house and the garden were too big for me, so I started looking around. I went to lots of retirement homes before coming here. I like the cricket field, the open space and the atmosphere it creates. Friends come to visit and they think I’m so lucky to live in such a nice environment.
What activities do you make most use of at the retirement village?
Rose: Well we come to craft every fortnight, don’t we? We make different things for Christmas, for the summer and other times of year. We did a nativity scene for the main entrance that comes out every year. We do quite a bit of card making and make these wall hangings. We’re in the middle of another one as we speak!
Joan: Each person does a section according to their abilities, which is nice. It depends upon your imagination too, how you see it. We're a little community here. Rose is an absolute whizz with cross stitch.
Rose: Joan’s doing a lovely collage of her front garden based on photographs from the spring. We made a beautiful card last week and we would never have done half the things we have if we hadn’t have come here. The instructor is very talented and has wonderful equipment that she brings in. She’s a lovely person and very kind. It’s a happy time really.
Have you always been interested in craft?
Joan: Oh, I’ve always been interested. I was an only child for the first 15 years of my life and had to learn to amuse myself.
Rose: Joan’s very talented. She’s the star of the craft group.
Joan: I wish you’d stop saying that, it’s embarrassing! I did used to do a lot with dolls’ houses which I glazed and decorated and made a lot of things for. I used to write up the things I had made as projects for two magazines. I also ran workshops from my home and raised funds for charity through it. I don’t know how I did it all, honestly!
Rose: The most I did before I came here was cross stitch pictures, which are all around my apartment hanging on the walls. I used to make cards at Christmas but that was it really. Since I joined this craft group I’ve done all sorts! If you said to Domenica, the activities coordinator, you wanted to do something she would make sure you could do it. She’s absolutely wonderful!
Joan: We have an activities sheet every fortnight and it’s absolutely jam-packed full. I mainly go the exercise groups. I play croquet three days a week in the season and that’s a lovely thing to do. There’s the gym downstairs too and various groups with the physiotherapists – we got thrown out because we were too good! We’re troublemakers, you see…
What advice would you give to a beginner looking to start a craft this Christmas?
Joan: Craft groups are really helpful and cater for all levels of experience. They also have all the materials available and ready for you to use. And it’s easy to get the hands on guidance you need in a group environment. It's a great place to meet new friends too. I always suggest starting with simple card making, a lovely Christmas activity which is quick and easy to try.
Rose: And I just think that if I can do it, anyone can!
You can find out more about Westbury Fields and all the activities on offer by visiting our dedicated village page, where you can download a free brochure and watch a quick video with some of our residents.