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Residents awarded grant to support community gardening club

Funding provided by Live Longer Better – a programme to promote health and wellbeing – will help a group of Paignton retirees expand their popular community gardening club, which was launched in 2022 as a way to combat loneliness following the pandemic.

Since the club was established, its members have not only transformed the outdoor areas of their development, but they’ve also built a thriving community group.

The group currently has 11 members, who are all residents at Tembani Court – an independent-living retirement development managed by FirstPort.

But that number is expected to grow, with funds from the grant set to go towards the cost of new plants, raw materials, and high planters to allow residents with less mobility to get involved.

The residents arranged a garden open day in August where they were presented with a cheque by Healthwatch Torbay.

The open day was also an opportunity to show off the results of their hard work during the previous 15 months to rejuvenate the communal gardens surrounding the 92-flat retirement development.

Lorraine Bush, FirstPort Development Manager at Tembani Court, started the gardening club after noticing how isolated residents were feeling following the coronavirus pandemic.

The club has since been a place for residents to enjoy gardening and all the benefits it brings and form friendships and connections among residents.

Lorraine explained:

“Some of the men who live at Tembani Court had never even talked to each other but now they have breakfast together at the local café and enjoy a pint or two and some karaoke at the local pub.

“There is no one who has not been involved in the club and the open day was a great opportunity for everyone to get together to see all the hard work that was needed to transform the gardens. And what’s even better is that the club is also now leading onto more projects and ideas being brought in, including exercise classes and a walking group.

To say I am proud of all these residents would be an understatement. It truly is a privilege to work at a development where it is not just brick and mortar – but, as one of my residents recently said, we are a community.

Speaking about the club, resident Martin Wright said:

“Having had a very full career in the Catering and Hospitality Industry, leaving me little time for gardening, and now retired to Devon only six months before our club was formed at Tembani Court, participating in the various projects has opened up a whole new world of activity for me.

“Not only have I liked the planning, gardening aspects and exercise, I have found new friends and enjoyed getting to know so many of the other residents and their families who stop to chat and spend time in the new-look communal gardens surrounding our building.”

The work by the club has so far involved the removal of tired-looking shrubbery, the rotavating and revival of flower beds, water butts installation, the planting of new flowers and shrubs, and the designation of areas for the cultivation of home-grown vegetables and fruit.

Live Longer Better is a national network in place to promote health and wellbeing. The local Torbay programme is offered in collaboration with Torbay Communities, Healthwatch Torbay and Active Devon.