Women having a conversation with community members.

What makes a good life? Building belonging at Manor Gardens.

In the shade of the arboretum on Barnwood Road in Gloucester sits Manor Gardens, a small community of bungalows on the site of a former day centre and offices for Barnwood Trust. The Trust plans to develop the site to create 46 new accessible homes set in landscaped gardens, with shared space for socialising and the opportunity for a thriving supportive community to grow.

Members of the Barnwood Trust team have spent time meeting people in the local communities of Hucclecote and Barnwood, as well as spending time with residents currently living at Manor Gardens. They wanted to collect views and ideas about what makes a good life, and what matters to people when they think about their own care and support needs (or those of people they know).

Helen Bown, Manor Gardens Advisor at Barnwood Trust, describes below how the project went:

‘People were very welcoming and generous with their time and their thoughts. We met with people who enjoy a local lunch club, members of local church groups, individuals who are very involved in their community, people who run specific clubs and volunteer groups, and people who are neighbours.

Several themes emerged during the conversations:

 A strong local community – Barnwood and Hucclecote areas were seen as active, caring and supportive communities with plenty of groups and ‘community spirit’ by the people we met. Local resources matter – the loss of local shops was seen as having a negative impact on wellbeing and independence.

Shared activity is valued – meals, coffee mornings all enhance a sense of belonging and provide support Friendship and support – enhances wellbeing, particularly at a time of crisis or loss, also when caring for someone who’s circumstances are changing e.g. someone living with dementia. Personal Care – flexible consistent care and privacy are important, trust in the person or organisation providing your care matters.

Neighbours people spoke warmly of the support, friendship and help they received from neighbours, who can be so helpful and important at a time of crisis or difficulty, and also give help in very practical ways e.g. gardening, handyman tasks, shopping Time of change – people valued ‘neighbourliness’ but they also recognised that their communities were changing, which made making relationships and getting to know new people harder (when people were out at work and less likely to be about during the day).

Shared experience a number of people talked about how they had lost their partner, and found friendship and support from others in a similar situation. Others talked about how they found support and friendship helped them when they were   carers. Hobbiesclubs and hobbies for shared interests and passions meant a great deal to some

People also talked about things that they found of interest, and how their past interests and hobbies were being maintained, sometimes in different ways when they became less mobile. For example:

  • Being engaged and staying engaged – lifelong hobbies and interests etc. helped people to stay involved, using existing networks of people with common interests (not always local)
  • History – of Barnwood and place, people valued the local history, and the importance of Barnwood (the Manor Gardens site)
  • Shared themes/interests – wildlife, history, horticulture. Sometimes supported by volunteering e.g. helping others with gardening or helping at the local lunch club
  • Schools – local parents are involved in the primary school, and keen to promote opportunities for stronger links with intergenerational activities, teaching and learning
  • Common circumstances – carers found friendship and support from other carers, and welcomed the opportunity to have a break (at a lunch club)

These themes are perhaps not a surprise, and probably are things that mean something to us all. It is clear that local links and connections are important to people.

We will be spending more time out and about, encouraging people we meet to share their ideas and experience. We will be working alongside people in Barnwood and Hucclecote to help make Manor Gardens a place where new residents are welcome and people really do feel they belong.

To learn more about the Manor Gardens project, visit our articles in the column to the right. If you have any questions, please email us at info@barnwoodtrust.org