Brilliant volunteers with the Winterstoke Gardens and East Cliff Projects in Ramsgate have unveiled two ‘chat benches, today to coincide with World Mental Health Day (October 10).
Over the past four years the group has donated thousands of volunteer hours clearing and planting at Winterstoke Gardens and along the East Cliff.
This time they turned their attention to the area off Victoria Parade, clearing back bushes so the benches placed either side of the fountain have a calming view.
After varnishing the six benches, three each either side of the fountain, the group worked together to create two chat bench signs for each middle bench.
The fantastic signs were created by Bruce Gibson – son of volunteer Clara – and encased in Perspex by volunteer David Barber. The group were helped by Sir Moses Moneifiore ward councillor Mark Hopkinson and Ramsgate Town Councillor Pat Makinson.
Chat benches have been installed across the country, including by Avon and Somerset Police. The sign is an invite to sit and have a conversation with whoever else is there. The aim is to combat loneliness and isolation.
A study published by the University of Sheffield in 2015, also found sitting on benches allows people to spend longer outside, which is beneficial for mental health.
Clara said: “We thought of it in July when we were doing our slogathon event, varnishing benches and trimming the bushes which hadn’t been done by the council for a very long time.
“The view is beautiful and revitalising and people can just sit here and absorb that.”
Dave added: “If people are feeling depressed, down, lonely they can come and sit on one of the benches and anyone walking past can join them and have a chat.
“It is a national scheme but we are the first in Thanet to do this, which is nice, It is about getting people to talk and be communal.”
Cllr Hopkinson said: “”We’re proud to be the first ward to bring this idea to Thanet. This is an idea we can all benefit from – everyone feels alone and in need of a chat sometimes.
“We don’t want people to think these benches are a place of doom and gloom – but they are there if people need them. Of course, it’s up to people to decide to use them now and we hope they’ll be a success.
“We’d really like it if people get in touch on our facebook page and let us know if they’ve had any experience of using the chat benches.
“Your ward councillors will be using them so we hope to see you there. Get in touch at “Labour Councillors for Moses Montefiore ward” on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/labour4monty”
The volunteers look after the Grade II listed Winterstoke Gardens, Sun Palace and Chine, which were built in the early 1920s and had been planted with scented plants for visually impaired soldiers returning from the First World War.
The Winterstoke area was passed to the district council nearly 50 years ago and, until volunteers began taking care of the area four years ago, it had become neglected and overgrown.