As autumn rolls on many of us have been venturing outdoors to explore the best gardens the South West has to offer. We spoke to St Monica Trust Gardens Lead Kirsty Frampton about the little known gardens on site at each of the Trust’s 5 retirement communities, in Bristol and North Somerset, and the huge difference they make to residents.
“Our Gardens team is quite small in number, but I think we do a good job. Across the 5 sites we have 2 people at Sandford Station, 2 people at Westbury Fields and 5 people at Cote Lane including myself and a part time worker.”
“Cote Lane is the oldest site that we have and many of its gardens are quite old, planted in the 60s and 70s. The challenge is making sure that the gardens are in keeping with the old buildings. We have a scented garden, for instance, which has been built around our original sundial [in the St Monica Trust logo] and there are an awful lot of different plants in there. We have the parkland too, which is essentially a mini arboretum and contains a lot of old protected trees. There’s an ancient English Oak that we’re not allowed to touch. There are hidden features here too – including an old icehouse that goes back to the 1800s and is buried under quite a thick layer of soil.”
“Sandford Station is unique in its location in that none of our other sites are as rural and it’s set against the Mendip Hills. They have that landscape to blend in with, which brings its own challenges. There is also a parkland area at Sandford and they are the only site to have a designated sensory garden, which has been a massive hit with the people that live there and those visiting. It’s still quite young in garden years and has a long way to go, but that’s exciting!”
“Westbury Fields is around 15 years old and has gone through periods of change as a garden. It has lots of different areas which we’re working on to make fantastic and they are beginning to shine through. We’re excited about the things that we could do there in the future and have a gardener who is very wildlife orientated, so on that basis it’s looking lovely. It’s based around a cricket pitch and we’re responsible for the outfield which we cut twice a week during cricket season.”
“The Chocolate Quarter rooftop gardens are now open in Keynsham and looking good. The team working on them have done a brilliant job and they are still very much in development, so watch this space!”
“Monica Wills House in Bedminster also has a rooftop garden and the residents look after it completely. It’s run by them and they have a new gardens committee too. We visit if and when they need support on any particular projects. Downstairs there’s a wildlife garden at the very end of the building that can be seen from inside the atrium. That has only been planted this year but will definitely be one to watch."
"Overall the gardens offer our residents the opportunity for freedom incorporated with safety. They can wander around a big space but are safe as they do it. There are no obstacles that might make people feel unsure like when they are out walking on the street. Many of our residents will have had houses will gardens, sometimes large gardens, and will have given much of that up to move to one of our villages or care homes. They can feel that they have some of that back again, so it is fantastic for well-being. We also make it clear to our residents that if they see a patch that needs weeding, they are capable of doing it and would like to then it is their home and they can do so if they wish. We lead garden walks a couple of times a year to point out interesting things and there’s normally a huge turnout.
I trained in therapeutic horticulture and being outside amongst plants, having your hands in some soil, planting some seeds and taking ownership of something that needs nurturing makes an enormous difference to people’s lives. I see that in our residents every day and our also our staff.”
To find out more about retirement accommodation with the St Monica Trust, including properties now available at Sandford Station and The Chocolate Quarter, please visit our retirement village and care home pages.