Blos­som­ing late in life

Top de­vel­op­ments for green-fin­gered grans

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Spring­time at Ames­bury Abbey is her­alded by car­pets of daf­fodils and blue­bells that flank the long drive up to the an­cient build­ing and sur­round­ing cot­tages. The River Avon, which cuts through the re­tire­ment vil­lage’s gen­tly un­du­lat­ing 35-acre land­scape, is a favourite pic­nic spot in sum­mer for the re­tired res­i­dents who can en­joy a spot of fish­ing and fam­ily fun with the grand­chil­dren in this idyl­lic spot near Stone­henge in Wilt­shire.

The an­i­mated twit­ter of the bird life is matched only by the ex­cited chat­ter of the prop­erty own­ers who stroll the grounds – where the 13th-cen­tury queen Eleanor of Provence, wife of King Henry III, is said to be buried – and me­an­der down to the fresh wa­ter spring, where early hunter gath­er­ers set­tled to build Stone­henge.

“We do live a sybaritic life,” ad­mits Marigold Routh, 86, who has lived at Ames­bury Abbey for five years. She owns a one-bed­room ground-floor apart­ment with a pa­tio. Like many re­tirees, it was a wrench for her to give up her fam­ily home – but a big­ger one to give up her garden.

“We had a two-acre garden with a wild­flower meadow and walled garden,” she re­calls. “I have to say I miss the garden more than the house – but look at this.” She ges­tures to­ward the pa­tio, which she has filled with raised beds and plant pots, and the grassy area be­yond.

“I grow clema­tis, dwarf roses, daf­fodils and gera­ni­ums, and don’t have to bend down too far to look after them. There’s even a heated green­house where I can keep my gera­ni­ums in win­ter.”

Routh, who has a nat­u­ral sciences de­gree from Ox­ford Univer­sity, worked in plant phys­i­ol­ogy for chem­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant ICI in the Six­ties at the cutting edge of weed killer and in­sec­ti­cide de­vel­op­ment. She loves be­ing sur­rounded by plant life.

“We have beech trees here which were planted by the Duke of Queens­bury in the mid-18th cen­tury, limes and cedars of Le­banon which were planted in the 19th cen­tury, and a gi­ant se­quoia red­wood from Amer­ica,” she says. “I love pop­ping down to the river to see the wild­flow­ers and pot­ter­ing in the green­house.”

The abbey was con­verted into a re­tire­ment vil­lage by the late Mary Cor­nelius-Reid, a pi­o­neer of re­tire­ment com­mu­ni­ties back in the Fifties. “All the res­i­dents love the gar­dens, they are so im­por­tant to their well­be­ing,” says Mary’s daugh­ter, Naomi Cor­nelius-Reid, who now runs the fam­ily busi­ness with her two sib­lings.

“There is so much space for our res­i­dents to en­joy; there’s the river, wood­land, and acres of grounds. We put on lots of events in the sum­mer: pic­nics, bar­be­cues by the river, fetes, fairs and a Proms in the Park.

“Many own­ers have had gar­dens which they miss more than their houses, but here they have all the ben­e­fits of a big garden with­out hav­ing to look after it. Peo­ple can also have their own lit­tle gar­dens if they want.”

At Danny House in Hurst­pier­point, West Sus­sex, owner Richard Bur­rows holds two sum­mer pic­nics for his re­tired res­i­dents who rent apart­ments in the Grade I listed for­mer home of Prime Min­is­ter David Lloyd Ge­orge.

Bur­rows has in­stalled a grass ten­nis court and cro­quet lawn in the 20-acre grounds and re­vived a his­toric cricket pitch in a bid to keep the res­i­dents fit and ac­tive.

“We have one of the old­est cricket grounds in the world,” Bur­rows boasts. “Sandy­fields was first doc­u­mented in 1717 and in July we will mark its 300th an­niver­sary by play­ing a match with 18th-cen­tury rules – two stumps, a hockey stick shaped bat and un­der­arm bowl­ing – and dressed in 18th-cen­tury cos­tume.”

Bur­rows lives on site and runs the es­tate like a colo­nial coun­try club. He has even banned wheel­chairs and walk­ing frames from the pub­lic ar­eas. “All our res­i­dents are ac­tive and mo­bile, even though some are well into their 90s,” he ex­plains. “We don’t want them to be re­minded of the neg­a­tive as­pects of old age.”

He takes them for drives around the grounds in his vin­tage Bent­ley, on boat trips around the pond and on wild­flower walks along the kilo­me­tre-long drive.

For re­tired his­to­rian and author Joanna Bastin, 77, mov­ing to Danny House three years ago was like com­ing

‘We do live a sybaritic life. I grow clema­tis, dwarf roses, daf­fodils, and gera­ni­ums too’

home. Quite lit­er­ally: her an­ces­tors used to own the place. “My mother was born here and I re­mem­ber com­ing here as a child dur­ing the war – but I never imag­ined I would end up liv­ing here,” she says.

One of the big at­trac­tions for Bastin was Danny House’s garden. “I grew up with a big garden; we had a huge veg­etable garden and picked ev­ery­thing that was edi­ble. My hus­band and I also had a large garden at our home in Glouces­ter­shire.

“I have my own flower bed here and my apart­ment looks out onto a walled garden which is lovely. I love gar­den­ing. It is so sat­is­fy­ing watch­ing things grow. It is nice to be out­side too – and hav­ing help with the heavy work.”

Help is pro­vided by grounds­man John Fos­ter-Spink, an Aus­tralian stock­man who also keeps the 250 sheep, 15 chick­ens and 10 pigs un­der con­trol.

“Gar­dens and out­side space are just as im­por­tant in re­tire­ment de­vel­op­ments as in­door fa­cil­i­ties,” says Neil MacKichan of the prop­erty web­site re­tire­move.co.uk.

“Peo­ple can miss their gar­dens more than their homes. For­tu­nately devel­op­ers are re­al­is­ing this. They are land­scap­ing gar­dens with seat­ing ar­eas for peo­ple to so­cialise, plant­ing flowers that pro­duce bright, cheer­ful colours, and in­cor­po­rat­ing paths so peo­ple can walk their pets, keep ac­tive, en­gaged and in bet­ter spir­its which im­proves their health and well­be­ing.”

At Brun­lees Court, McCarthy & Stone’s as­sisted liv­ing de­vel­op­ment in South­port, John and Alex Bynon, 70 and 72, have planted 1,500 daf­fodils, 200 snow­drops and more than 100 pansies since they moved in 18 months ago. Their two grand­chil­dren have con­trib­uted more than 1,000 bulbs in raised beds, so neigh­bours in wheel­chairs can en­joy them too.

“We have a won­der­ful gar­dener who does a great job here, but who also gives us the free­dom to work on our own sec­tions of the garden,” John says. “There’s a real sense of team work and for us it’s all about turn­ing the garden into a home.”

At An­chor Re­tire­ment’s flag­ship vil­lage in Hamp­shire, a sen­sory garden and a gar­den­ing club have blos­somed since Celia Cum­mins, 69, moved in after sell­ing her large house in Dorset two years ago. “I’ve been a keen gar­dener for over 40 years and I was at­tracted to the open green spa­ces at Bish­op­stoke Park,” she says. “The sen­sory garden has been very in­tel­li­gently planted and pro­vides a lovely space in which to re­lax and lift your spir­its.” Cum­mins is cur­rently or­gan­is­ing a re­gen­er­a­tion of some of the com­mu­nal garden ar­eas. “We are hop­ing to es­tab­lish al­lot­ments so we can grow our own fruit and veg; the chef likes to use fresh pro­duce grown on site in­clud­ing herbs grown in the sen­sory garden and wild gar­lic from the nearby wood­land.” A sen­sory garden is also in the works at Hanover Gar­dens in Bices­ter, which was awarded £8,000 from Tesco’s com­mu­nity grant scheme Bags of Help fol­low­ing a flood. It will fea­ture poly­wood arches, low­ered brick planters, seat­ing and sounds cre­ated by a so­lar-pow­ered foun­tain.

Rowena Hin­gle of Hanover Hous­ing is help­ing to cre­ate sen­sory gar­dens de­signed to help res­i­dents who need ex­tra sup­port as part of a new project called Walk This Way. “We have dif­fer­ent themes de­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion,” she says. “Hanover Court in Cin­der­ford is near the For­est of Dene which has a fa­mous sculp­ture trail, so we have in­cor­po­rated a life-size deer made of wil­low which is tac­tile and soft and peo­ple can touch.

“The main thing is to get peo­ple out­side in the day­light and fresh air; it is good for social in­ter­ac­tion with fam­ily mem­bers and other res­i­dents, and good for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and well­be­ing.”

The Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety, which or­gan­ises the Chelsea Flower Show later this month, is in­vest­ing £100mil­lion in the fu­ture of hor­ti­cul­ture with the aim of im­prov­ing the na­tion’s health and well­be­ing.

“Do­mes­tic gar­dens and cul­ti­vated plants are a pub­lic ‘nat­u­ral’ health ser­vice,” says di­rec­tor gen­eral Sue Biggs. “Gar­den­ing helps peo­ple to be healthy and is good for us phys­i­cally and men­tally. Gar­den­ing re­laxes us, eases stress, pro­vides ex­er­cise and im­proves psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing. More than 90 per cent of us in the UK say that just look­ing at a garden lifts our mood.”

‘More than 90 per cent of us say that look­ing at a garden lifts our mood’

Sun’s out: a pic­nic at Danny House, main; Marigold Routh at Ames­bury Abbey, left; flower beds at Brun­lees Court, right

Re­gal: the wil­low deer in the garden at Hanover in Cin­der­ford

Light bulbs: Joanna Bastin and Richard Bur­rows with the Danny House daf­fodils

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