Duchess of Northumberland supports winter garden project tackling loneliness in older people

The project provides specifically designed therapeutic horticulture and wellbeing activities in order to help those in the group stay happy and healthy. Carers enjoy respite to alleviate the pressures of providing full time care. The Blooming Well Project is for people living with dementia.

Abbeyfield patron The Duchess of Northumberland popped in to join craft makers at an arts project that connects older people with nature over the winter months. 

Older people’s housing and care charity, Abbeyfield, has partnered with The Alnwick Garden for the Pop-Up Garden project, which encourages older people to reap the benefits the outdoors and nature brings, in an effort to counter seasonal isolation.

The Duchess joined older people from Alnwick, Ashington and Warkworth as they shared yarns over yarns in the Garden’s Elderberries Room while making handcrafted textile Pop-Up Gardens inside recycled suitcases and briefcases.

April Dobson is head of dementia and innovation at Abbeyfield. She said:  “The Pop-Up Garden project is so important. It’s not only the bringing together of people and the enjoyment of creating the Pop-Up Gardens, but it’s that connection with nature and the outdoors during these cold winter months when older people can often feel at their most isolated and alone because they can’t get outside as easily.

“Establishing that connection between older people and nature can really raise spirits, reduce anxiety and lift peoples’ mood – we all feel better when we have that connection.

“We are delighted to be partnering with The Alnwick Garden and their Elderberries group for the project and are thrilled that the Duchess has come along today to support us.”

The Duchess, the visionary of The Alnwick Garden said: “It is so lovely that the Garden is such a source of inspiration for everyone today and to see it bringing people together to form new friendships and enjoy the company of others during what can be an incredibly  lonely and isolated time of year for older people.

“We are delighted to be able to support such a worthwhile project and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished gardens on display here in May.”

Trying her hand at wet-felt making was Doreen from Ashington. She said: “I think it’s lovely for people like this to get together instead of sitting in the same room every day.

“I’ve met lots of new people and learned new ideas like the wet-felt making that we can take home and discuss with other people so we can get them involved too.”

Abbeyfield’s Pop-Up Garden project is part of the charity’s Feel The Warmth campaign, to tackle loneliness in those aged 55 and over. The campaign sees Abbeyfield houses and homes across the UK open their doors and invite people in to share physical, emotional and spiritual warmth to make a difference to them at the coldest time of the year.

Pop-Up gardens created during the project will bloom to form a Springtime Breath of Fresh Air Pop Up Garden exhibition at The Alnwick Garden next May. Following the exhibition, donated gardens will be taken into Abbeyfield dementia care homes across the UK. There, they will be used to help bring back memories and stimulate conversations about nature and the outdoors among people living with dementia. 

Breath of Fresh Air Pop Up Garden sessions will take place on the first Wednesday of each month from 10 -1pm in the Elderberries Room at The Alnwick Garden.  

Sessions are free for anyone aged 55 or over. You don’t have to any craft making experience and beginners are welcome. Arts and crafts materials are provided. 


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