A NEW corner of calm has opened in Gateshead after the hensioners teamed up with artists and schoolchildren to create a community orchard.
Based at Wood Green close to Bill Quay in Gateshead the orchard will grow to provide the community with apples, cherries and plums.
With benches, bulbs and handcrafted stepping stones, the peaceful pocket garden is a lasting memory to Bell Turnbull who died earlier this year.
Since 2012 residents at Wood Green have been original members of our HenPower, a project devised to improve wellbeing through hen-keeping and creative activities.
Together Bell, her husband Owen and their friends and neighbours have taken part in regular creative activities with artists and look after their 20+ hens to help improve wellbeing and tackle loneliness.
89-year-old Owen cared for his wife Bell following her dementia diagnosis. He’s been instrumental in bringing the orchard to life with the help of his friends and Gateshead Council scheme warden Lynne Walker.
This autumn their months of planting, creating and painting was unveiled with a community celebration buoyed by an afternoon of drumming and blub planting.
Owen, head hen-handler at the venue, said: “When Lynne suggested a memorial orchard for Bell I thought it was a fantastic idea. For the past few months we’ve had the schoolchildren here and been making ceramics, it’s been a focus and kept me active since Bell died.
“I’ve spent a lot of time selecting the shade of blue for the flowers to match her eyes, they sparkled the brightest blue. Bell was always giving apples to people asking if they were hungry, taxi-drivers, bingo callers, everyone. There was always an apple in her bag.”
Owen was joined at celebration by the hensioners, Equal Arts’ artists, children and teachers from The Drive Primary School and his great, great niece Bell, aged 8.
This month the Wood Green hensioners will travel to Sunderland University to give a presentation to nursing students about the benefits of the HenPower Project.
HenPower is now in more than 50 care settings across the UK. It supports people to explore their creativity and form new relationships with schools, volunteers and groups in their community.
Get in touch if you'd like to get involved either as a volunteer, school or care setting.