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22 March 2018

The Friendly Bench!

A fantastic community initiative will be formally opened this Sunday, outside one of our independent living schemes for older people.

The new outdoor space, offering seating and sensory planting has been built next to Warwick Flats, in Bottesford, Nottinghamshire.

Created by local resident Lyndsey Young, The Friendly Bench™ is a mini kerbside community garden, designed to connect people to each other, their community and nature.

Supported by The Big Lottery Fund, the project aims to reduce loneliness and improve physical and mental wellbeing by providing a place for those who are socially isolated and with limited mobility, to connect.

With a background in design and experience of outdoor, creative projects, Lyndsey knows how much children and adults benefit from connecting with the outside world.

She drew up her design for The Friendly Bench™ and approached her local community. The response was overwhelmingly positive with many admitting they often felt isolated: “I was surprised by how many people were affected by isolation and no longer felt part of the community.” Lyndsey explains. “The kerb-side bench will be a resting place, an outdoor room where people can come out of their homes to talk to each other.

“It is a public space, open to everyone. It is inclusive and the plants will be an ice-breaker to conversation. It is such a simple idea, so replicable; a small change that will make a big difference.”

Since the location was chosen for the bench, Lyndsey has worked closely with Jim Ansty, scheme manager at Warwick Flats. Project meetings have been held in the communal lounge and the lounge and kitchen will be used at the opening day. The water butts at Warwick Flats will be used to maintain the bench’s plants and shrubs and the gardening tools will be stored at the flats.

The residents at Warwick Flats fully support the project and are delighted to be involved. Jim comments: “Some of our residents have been put off going to the shops due to the distance. The bench will give them the confidence to venture out, using it as a pit stop along the way! I think The Friendly Bench is a great idea. It will encourage people to socialise with their neighbours and passers by and become part of the local community.”

Lyndsey has been overwhelmed with the support she has received, including from Rachel Reeves MP co-chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and Sir Alan Duncan MP and hopes she can recreate the project in other areas: “The aim of The Friendly Bench™ is to connect people. We’re starting with Bottesford, but the situation here is not unique, we want to build more benches in places where they are needed.”

Blue Diamond Garden Centre in East Bridgford have kindly donated the plants and top soil. The various herbs and flowers will add colour, textures and different smells to the community space.

The opening

The Friendly Bench™ will be officially opened at 11am, Sunday 25th March on Granby Drive, Bottesford, Leicestershire.

Sir Alan Duncan, Conservative front bencher MP for Rutland & Melton and Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be there along with a TV crew from BBC TV East Midlands

Find out more on Facebook: TheFriendlyBench