Abbeyfield embrace ‘breath of fresh air’

Pictured are Geraldine Gilpin, chief executive, Abbeyfield & Wesley Housing Association, Ellen McIlwaine, Lord Mayor, Cllr Mealla Campbell, Winnie Carson and Barbara Kelso, garden designer
Pictured are Geraldine Gilpin, chief executive, Abbeyfield & Wesley Housing Association, Ellen McIlwaine, Lord Mayor, Cllr Mealla Campbell, Winnie Carson and Barbara Kelso, garden designer

Residents at Abbeyfield and Wesley Housing Association’s Lurgan House are embracing a ‘breath of fresh air’ thanks to the official opening of a beautiful new garden area.

Located at Sloan Street the facility, the interactive outdoor space was developed as part of Abbeyfield’s “Breath of Fresh Air” programme.

Pictured are Lord Mayor, Cllr Mealla Campbell, Ellen McIlwaine, Winnie Carson, and Alice McConville

Pictured are Lord Mayor, Cllr Mealla Campbell, Ellen McIlwaine, Winnie Carson, and Alice McConville

Geraldine Gilpin, Chief Executive, Abbeyfield and Wesley Housing Association said: “Research has proved that being outdoors has positive effects on health and wellbeing. It boosts mental and physical wellbeing, strengthens immunity and helps with maintaining a good sleep pattern. Active hobbies such as gardening can cut the risk of heart disease, while sunlight generates Vitamin D, which is essential for maintaining healthy bones.

“Abbeyfield’s ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ programme aims to improve and enhance the health and wellbeing of older people by supporting them to connect with nature and enjoy the outdoors. We sought to develop the outside space at our Lurgan house as we wanted to use our immediate environment to support the wellbeing of residents and the wider community. The new garden is elegant, imaginative and practical, in harmony with the house and its surroundings, and it will hopefully bring many years of enjoyment and pleasure to all who use it.

“We are also very grateful to the late Mrs Margaret Reside from Warrenpoint and Mrs Winnifred Edgar from Holywood, whose legacies made this garden project possible.”

Garden designer, Barbara Kelso, who was commissioned to design and plant the project explained: “I was asked to design a garden for the residents of Abbeyfield House, Lurgan and transform an area that was being under-utilised into a space that offered seating areas for people to relax and somewhere to grow fruit and vegetables. They were also keen to incorporate a summerhouse into the design to provide shelter and planting that would make the garden attractive all year round. I had a fairly blank canvas to work with, as before I started there was just a sloping lawn and a large dying tree in the space.

Pictured are Ellen McIlwaine, Lord Mayor, Cllr Mealla Campbell, and Winnie Carson

Pictured are Ellen McIlwaine, Lord Mayor, Cllr Mealla Campbell, and Winnie Carson

“One of the main features of the new garden is a patio, which is located in a sunny, sheltered area with easy access from the conservatory. Several new wooden benches have been positioned to catch the sunshine all day long. As the patio had to be ‘dug’ into the sloping lawn, a beautifully planted raised bed has been created and the top of this wall has been designed at a suitable height to provide extra seating in the garden. If it is a wet day or shade is required from the midday sun, there is another seating area in an attractive summerhouse, which also acts as a lovely focal point if viewed from the conservatory.

“Around the summerhouse there are several raised beds to bring the planting up to a reachable height and here the residents can get involved and be active in the garden by growing herbs, fruits and vegetables. As this area is on a higher level, there is a curved path with a gentle gradient leading up from the patio. Handrails along the path provide extra support if required. Lighting along the pathway, at the patio and the summerhouse will promote usage of the garden into the evenings. The flower beds have also been planted with colourful, easy to maintain plants. Many of these have colourful flowers attractive to butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects.”

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Mealla Campbell added: “I am delighted to see this fantastic garden completed and available now for the Abbeyfield residents to enjoy. Having this outdoor space is so important to allow residents access to a safe area where they can look after their vegetables or just sit in the sun. I hope it gives many hours of enjoyment in the future.”

Mrs Ellen McIlwaine, who became a resident of the Lurgan House last year praised the facility: “Gardens are meant to be enjoyed. I hope everyone will take advantage of this beautiful space and enjoy it.”

Miss Winnie Carson, a resident for the last five years added: “Absolutely fabulous, I love the stonework in the paths.”

There are two Abbeyfield societies in Northern Ireland, and both are charities. Abbeyfield Belfast Society operates seven supported sheltered houses in South and East Belfast.

Abbeyfield and Wesley Housing Association manages 18 supported, sheltered houses in Ballycastle, Ballyclare, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Bangor, Carrickfergus, Donaghadee, Downpatrick, Greenisland, Holywood, Lurgan, Newtownabbey and Portstewart. In addition, the charity also runs a residential dementia care home in East Belfast and three sheltered schemes in Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Belfast.

For further information on Abbeyfield & Wesley please check out www.abbeyfieldandwesley.org.uk