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Damsons transforms my life … I don’t feel on my own anymore

Damsons members sat around table talking and laughing
Damsons members inside Reed Barn at Peckover | © NTI

Since opening in July last year, Damsons, a community group for people living with dementia and their loved ones, at the National Trust’s Peckover House and Garden, has transformed the lives of members.

The calm and relaxing space inside the Reed Barn at Peckover, offers information, advice and somewhere to socialise with those in a similar situation.

The Victorian-style walled garden is a safe and central part of the experience having remained largely unchanged for over 150 years and features several varieties of rose, herbaceous borders, fruit trees on the Orchard Lawn plus an Orangery, which houses three 300-year-old orange trees.

Damsons meet on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and sessions include a chance to explore the garden at Peckover which inspires crafts, activities and conversation over a friendly cup of tea. The group recently enjoyed a Coronation themed party and made crowns and cake to celebrate.

As a result of attending Damsons, members have described feeling an increased sense of wellbeing, having a lifeline in difficult times, making new friends and having a huge amount of fun.

Karen joins the group every week with her mum and said:

Mum loves wandering around the garden on the way to the barn, and what’s really lovely, is when you walk through the doors, everybody says hello, and welcome, and is smiling - that’s what brings mum in – she responds well to happy faces. When she’s doing crafts and sees happy faces, she doesn’t need me all the time.

Even though she can’t remember anybody or the buildings when we walk through the door she is friends with everybody. She responds to everybody. Even though dementia causes friendships to be lost, through Damsons she’s gained friendships and the feeling of friendship.

We can all talk to each other. I didn’t realise Dementia was so different for everybody but it’s also similar, we all have the anxiousness bits. It’s good to be able to talk each week and the routine of knowing that we’re coming is invaluable.”

Tony and his wife attend Damsons weekly. He said:

Gardening and spending time in gardens is so good for the wellbeing of people, not only the people living with dementia but also the carers.

“I feel that my wife and I live in two separate worlds, but when we come to Damsons, the social contact is so great and the friendship, I feel like we’re just one big family. I don’t feel on my own anymore.

“My wife doesn’t smile or laugh at home at all, but we can’t stop her at Damsons. It is just an incredible transformation – it transforms my life. It’s the only thing she looks forward to going, she would rather stay at home every day but when I say we’re going to Damsons she says ‘great’.

“While the staff and volunteers are doing activities with my wife, it gives me time to do things on my own, crafty things, and I just don’t get that any other time. It’s just incredible, she looks forward to coming to Damsons, I just cannot explain how great this place is, it’s transformed our lives, you need more of these places.

“With Damsons, we also get support, I feel like I can ask questions. If I’ve got a problem at home about something, I ask, and people share, and it really helps.”

With dementia cases predicted to treble and reach 150 million by 2050, dementia-friendly spaces are more vital than ever, improving wellbeing outcomes, and helping prevent health risks by facilitating access to fresh air and exercise.

If you support a family member or friend who lives with mild to moderate dementia and loves nature, and you would like to find out more about joining Damsons at the National Trust’s Peckover House and Garden in Wisbech, please call 01945 583463 or email

More information can be found at

Damsons was created as part of the EU Regional Development funded pilot project called MONUMENT (MOre NUrturing and More Empowerment Nested in Technology) working with colleagues from across Europe. Financial support for the project was via the Interreg Two Seas Programme.