Carol Rowcliffe, Manager at Pears Court, Jewish Care
Valerie and Corinne, at Jewish Care’s Pears Court retirement living apartments, love being part of the Allotment Group at Jewish Care’s Piaf’s Garden at Sandringham. Together with fellow tenants and volunteers they have nurtured the garden in its first year, planting beautiful flowers and vegetables.
Jewish Care’s Sandringham, set in beautiful gardens, is a retirement and care community comprising of Pears Court retirement living, Anita Dorfman House care home, Wolfson Assisted Living and The Ronson Family Jewish Community Centre together with the Zalman and Ruchi Noé Centre for people living with dementia.
Our vision for Retirement Living, is not ‘retiring from living” on the contrary, we see it as an opportunity, for those who are not quite ready to settle down, to live an active life in a safe and supported environment, whilst also being involved in purposeful activities and contributing to the community in which they live. Just over a year after we opened Pears Court we are seeing the vision come to fruition. Members of the Pears Court community are engaging in a whole range of activities from Pilates and mindfulness, discussion to knitting groups as well as bridge and gardening.
The Allotment Group at Piaf’s Garden in Sandringham has been a big success. Led by the Activities Coordinator and the Supportive Communities groups manager, the project, tenants and volunteers have transformed the garden from bare beds to a green space with an abundant harvest this summer. Participating in the group brings multiple benefits for the tenants, promoting independence, physical activity, connection with nature as well as with other people in the Sandringham community, including volunteers of all ages from the wider community.
The whole environment is designed for those at Pears Court to connect with different parts of their identity. Each of the benches in the garden has names of places in the east end, like Ridley Road, touching on the roots of many of the tenants and care home residents who enjoy sitting in the garden. The benches were named by the main donor of the Sandringham campus as they grew up in Hackney. Like many of those living at Sandringham, they too have fond childhood memories of the area.
Together the tenants and volunteers created the planting scheme and invited corporate employee volunteers from PWC to prepare the beds in the winter months, ready for planting. The tenants shared the watering rota over the long, hot summer and saw the garden flourish. With the help of local volunteers Laurie, Steven and Ruth, proud of being known by the tenants as ‘The Allotment Lady”, so much has been achieved by the group and they share this sense of satisfaction in their joint efforts which has resulted in an abundance of beans, sweetcorn, parsnips, courgettes and tomatoes they have harvested, and flowers blossoming and herbs growing in the raised beds.
For some, like Valerie, there is much to be learnt and discovered by taking up a new interest. Whilst for others, working on the allotment is a continuation of the enjoyment in tending to the garden. Phyllis, who lives at Pears Court, told me about her garden at home where her husband used to have a greenhouse, growing cucumbers and tomatoes. The allotment project also connects her with strong memories of gardening from a young age. Phyllis remembers her mother taking produce to all their neighbours. Evacuated to Egham as a child, she was taken in by a teacher who, instead of giving regular lessons spent time working in the garden with the children. Though she missed out on her formal education at the time, there was a lot she learned about gardening.
Together, the tenants and volunteers share a sense of pride in the produce, they share it with their neighbours and bring beautiful squash and sweetcorn for display at the café at The Ronson Family Community Centre at Sandringham, where they spend time in together. Now they are planning to plant the bulbs they have dried and are working on the planting scheme for the Autumn and the coming year.
As we reached the start of a new Jewish year in the festival calendar, a sense of purpose, renewal and unity has also grown, generated by the activities in and around Pears Court at Sandringham. Just over a year after the first tenants moved in it feels like the beginning of the community here has formed and like Piaf’s Garden, it is already flourishing.