In the same week that marks dementia awareness and this year’s virtual Chelsea Flower Show, volunteers from The Eden Project and The Cornwall College Group (TCCG) are starting work with Cornwall Care to transform the first two of the charity’s sixteen gardens.

Woodland in St Austell is a 38-bed care home for people in need of dementia and residential support. It has a quiet, enclosed garden which, thanks to Eden Project horticulturists and volunteers, will be tidied up and re-planted. Staff from Cornwall College’s Creative and Digital Academy will also set up cameras to record the transformation.

Once work at Woodland is completed, the teams will move on to Penberthy in Newquay, another Cornwall Care home.

A maximum of four people will be working in the gardens at any one time and all the volunteers involved are currently furloughed from their permanent jobs.

“It’s very exciting and we’re really grateful to everyone concerned,” said Cornwall Care CEO Anne Thomas. “Our gardens are mentally and physically very important – not just for residents and staff but for family and friends as well. As far as the current pandemic is concerned, our homes are closed to visitors, but arrangements can be made for loved ones to see one another at a safe distance outdoors.”

Plans are in place to work on as many Cornwall Care gardens as possible over the next four to five weeks.

“This is a very significant long-term collaboration between three of Cornwall’s largest organisations,” said Cornwall Care fundraising manager Jan Burns.

“The project has two phases: the first is all about tidying up and maintaining the gardens and the second is securing funding and sponsorship to enable more substantial makeovers. In the meantime, we would be delighted to hear from any businesses or individuals prepared to donate garden furniture and other accessories like greenhouses and lighting.”

Eden Project executive director Peter Stewart said: “Our involvement came out of a conversation with Cornwall Care about how we could help give key workers the recognition they deserve.

“When we decided to team up to improve the Cornwall Care gardens, we put out a call for volunteers from our team and the response was immediate. Our team is ready to get to work on the care homes starting with Woodland this week and growing the project from there.

“Everyone knows the power of gardening and the benefits of having safe and relaxing open spaces, all the more so in these challenging times. It is fitting also that we are starting the project at Woodland in Dementia Awareness Week.”

TCCG principal and chief executive, John Evans, said the college was delighted to be in a position to support Cornwall Care.

“We are constantly looking for ways we can assist our incredible NHS and brave key workers, such as making and distributing PPE while continuing to teach our learners online so they can achieve their career goals,” he explained.

“With a senior team that boasts multiple Ofsted inspectors, we know that a focus on quality is vital for an organisation to succeed, but it also needs a nurturing and caring heart. Our colleges are here to passionately serve the communities in which we operate, so it is wonderful to be able to work with The Eden Project to support Cornwall Care and the many people it looks after.”

TCCG and Cornwall Care recently launched The Care Academy at Cornwall College St Austell, dedicated to training the next generation of care workers and upskilling those who already have a career in the sector.

Anyone interested in donating equipment and plants, should contact jan.burns@cornwallcare.org

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