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Atherton in bloom: Community brings care village garden ambitions to fruition

As the nation recently enjoyed a final resurgence of a Great British summer, community spirit has flourished in Atherton as locals lend their green fingers in support of a garden transformation at Belong care village, working alongside its customers to build an ecosystem for everyone to enjoy.

Thanks to the help and hard work of customers and volunteers, the Mealhouse Lane grounds have welcomed the addition of a greenhouse, vegetable troughs and raised planters, together creating the perfect home for flowers, whilst attracting birds, insects, and wildlife. The benefits of a new kitchen garden have already been realised with herbs being used in cooking, such as coriander adding a kick to carrot soup.

Kim Calland, experience coordinator at Belong Atherton, explains more: “We have lovely dementia friendly gardens and our customers asked if we could have more vibrancy, more wildlife, and bring more of the outside world in. They were also keen to lead the project themselves and for it to have an element of sustainability, so we’re growing our own fruit and vegetables for meals, as well as flowers to add a splash of colour inside and out.”

Residents have been supported to get involved on the village’s terraces, planting hanging baskets, filling bird feeders and keeping bird baths topped up. The dementia specialist also invited The Wildlife Trust to share their expertise with residents and tenants on how to create a wildlife hub at their home.

Light gardening has been shown to have a number of wellbeing benefits for those with dementia. Keeping green fingers busy helps to increase strength and balance, as well as enhance sensory stimulation. Working as a team and alongside external visitors provides a sense of purpose, moving toward a goal with an end result that everyone can enjoy.

The project has been made possible thanks to funding from Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership, as well as generous donations from residents, apartment tenants, and their families. Work commenced earlier this year before gaining momentum when the village welcomed more volunteers to mark The Big Help Out, as part of His Majesty The King’s coronation celebrations in May.

Kim continues: “Our customers have been loving it. Many of them are gardening enthusiasts and have relished being able to teach colleagues about what we need, where best to plant certain species, how to do it. It’s been a wonderful experience for all – now, we’re hoping for some autumn sunshine, but at least we can appreciate the gardens, whatever the weather!”

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