Hammersmith Reflections – Award Winning Secret Gardens Open Saturday 9 June

Hammersmith United Charities is thrilled to announce the charity has won two awards at the London Gardens Society Competition for each of its two sheltered housing schemes for older people.  Sycamore House won third place for the large community gardens at the awards ceremony. However, community gardener Jackie Thompson was particularly pleased to receive first prize and the Challenge Cup for John Betts House in the small community gardens category.

You have a once in a year opportunity to visit both secret gardens as part of the Open Garden Squares Weekend on Saturday 9th June between 2pm and 5pm. Tickets at the door £4 or at www.opensquares.org for all gardens across London open at the weekend, children up to 11 go free.

 

Tilly and the Challenge Cup

After several years of second and third places, and facing stiff competition from rival Almshouses, the internal garden courtyard at John Betts House, achieved the accolade under the leadership of Jackie (and trusty helper, Tilly the dog!) “It feels brilliant, because it’s a lot of work. It’s judged on RHS guidelines, with points for immediate colour, points for tidiness and cleanliness, points for proper use of plants in the right place and sustainability,” Jackie said.

Jackie joined the charity in December 2003 and built the garden up with the help from volunteer garden residents.  The secluded garden was used to dump rubble from building work when John Betts House was refurbished in 1998, so digging has proved to be very difficult.

Given the challenge the garden presents, Jackie explained one of the ways to improve it was to plant above soil level. This means the garden is filled with hanging baskets and raised beds, where residents can plant vegetables and fruits in the summer.  The focal piece of the garden is the series of arches which are covered with plants and grasses and which Jackie changes every year.

John Betts House

Of course, the overall appearance of the garden is enhanced by the array of hanging baskets, pots and plants which are created by the residents and adorn the balconies surrounding the main courtyard garden. These balconies were recognised at the London Gardens Society awards, as residents James Geraghty (Sycamore House) and Clodagh Corcoran (John Betts House) won third place in the Balcony and Container displays category at the Almshouses Residents’ Garden Competition.

Clodagh, who has lived at John Betts House for more than four years, explained she loves looking out onto the garden and enjoying the peace it offers.  “I love the garden here. I like looking at the colour, the peace in this garden, you could cut it, it’s so quiet and lovely. There are always tiny birds moving around, very early in the morning picking up insects, its lovely, there’s a whole world out there,” Clodagh said.  “We wouldn’t have a garden if it wasn’t for Jackie, she built it from gravel up. Everybody loves the garden, people who come here, and it had never occurred to them to have a flower pot and she has encouraged them.”

Jackie said she is motivated by the fact she has created something beautiful for the residents to enjoy and residents who have never had an interest in gardening now relish spending time on their balcony displays, including Kate Macdonald who spends every day tending to her red geraniums.  “I like that I have created in both places a very nice place to live, that makes people feel at home, that they feel secure and there’s stimulation in colour and texture and perfume,” Jackie added. “It’s all about creating a home for birds and insects as well, its wildlife. Especially in a city it’s really important…it’s like a little hidden paradise.”

John Betts House Resident Kate

 

John Betts House has added even more to its natural ‘wow’ factor given by the design that conceals its garden completely from garden view.  The garden now contains newly painted benches, a new fountain and swing seat for residents to enjoy, bought with funds from one of the Open Garden Squares event held every year at the gardens.

The London Gardens Society awards come at a very special time for the charity as it celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2018. For this reason, the residents of Sycamore House and John Betts House would like to invite the local community to visit the secret, beautiful and award-winning gardens at the next Open Garden Squares event held on Saturday 9 June 2018 and encourage keen local gardeners to keep in touch in order to be updated on our very own gardeners question time in September.

Amani Hughes

May 2018

Goodbye to Tim

We said Goodbye to our CEO Tim Hughes on the 8th November. We marked his transition into a life of unpaid work with a Tea Party.
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Hammersmith Reflections – Why we need art

Guest blog entry by Nora Laraki

 

Most of you know me as the Administrator of Hammersmith United Charities, the first point of contact when walking through our doors in Sycamore Gardens. But since 2017 I have also dedicated my time to do a PhD and dive with this research project deeper into the art world. (more…)

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Hammersmith Reflections – Solutions for an Ageing Society

Guest blog by Geoff Hands, business mentor

“Solutions for an Ageing Society” is part of Hammersmith United Charities’ programme of Social Enterprise Grants. Under the direction of Melanie Nock, HUC’s Head of Community and Partnership, it provides funds to launch new business ideas created by budding local entrepreneurs to enhance the quality of life of older residents in the Borough.

As well as offering grants, Hammersmith United Charities also provides a Business Mentor to help each entrepreneur work up a business plan and to support the successful launch of each new business. Coming from a background of law and business, I have had the good fortune to be that Mentor since the programme started in the summer of 2017.

The entrepreneurs are inspiring people, sharing a common characteristic – a fervent and infectious passion for their cause. All except one of them have been women; some young, most of them of a mature age, all of them coming from a variety of ethnicities reflecting the great diversity of cultures to be found in the Borough.

Their business ideas have been just as diverse, but they have mostly shared the common themes of combatting loneliness and enhancing community cohesion. One entrprenuer’s aspiration was to be an Energy Specialist for the Indoor Environment, bringing her career skills in energy efficiency and sustainability to enhancing the indoor environment of residential homes and day centres for older people. Another woman has been working closely with her daughter to establish an elderly persons’ care-at-home business embodying the cultural mores of her community particularly the love of older people and respect for their wisdom and experience.

Cooking and creative arts are well known antidotes to loneliness and insecurity. One very talented young grantee’s solution for an ageing society was “to lift people out of loneliness using food to create a community that meets regularly to talk about health, diet and cooking”. It was her belief “that inspiring people to cook for friends and family is a way to regain self-confidence and that giving the lunch participants new recipes and ideas to try at home will hopefully be an incentive for them to host more social gatherings on their own”.

A Solutions for an Ageing Society grant has been supporting another extremely gifted award winner in successfully testing her business idea in the local community – in sheltered housing, churches and community halls. Her scheme is to run “hands-on professional fun and creative Art &Crafts workshops with a focus on Textile Art and Felt Making for the elderly, in a safe and supporting environment” expressly with a view to “to fighting isolation, improving health and well- being and making friends by stimulating the senses and challenging minds to learn new hands-on skills”. She and I are currently working together on ways to take her idea to a new level and to grow it into a fully-fledged sustainable social enterprise.

These grants also extend to seed-corn funding an award winner intent on breaking down the taboos that prevent men from certain cultures talking about – and doing something about – the incidence of prostate cancer.

A Social Enterprise Grant from the charity is supporting a new organisation whose mission is the relief of domestic violence in the Borough particularly against immigrant women not able to speak English in isolation imposed by their violent partners. It teaches these victims that domestic violence is not an accepted norm in society, finds them a sanctuary and embraces them in a community of women with shared experiences but now assertive and independent in their own chosen milieu.

And a final “hurrah” for the one man in the scheme – a Life Coach seeking to establish a sustainable business providing a programme of Personal Development Workshops for elderly people. He hopes to introduce a pioneering ingredient – “cross generational mentoring” to integrate different generations working together and supporting each other in motivational life skills.

It is a privilege to work with these compassionate and dedicated people. One of the entrepreneurs wrote recently: “I must tell you that the time I spent with you and Melanie really did restore my self-confidence which had been knocked after almost a year of unemployment. I will be forever grateful for the confidence and belief HUC gave to me during that dark time.” An unexpected accolade for Hammersmith United Charities from an unexpected, unintended but nonetheless very welcome beneficiary.

Hammersmith United Charities has funded this programme in partnership with Unltd and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

Geoffrey Hand
October 2018

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January Grants deadline

Apply for a grant by 7th January!

The next deadline to send your grant application will be the 7th January.

Find our application form and entry requirements here.

Contact Melanie Nock if you would like to talk to us about your idea or your application.

We look forward to receiving your application!

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