Cancer charity creates new sanctuary garden for Swanage

Work has begun to landscape a forgotten corner of Prince Albert Gardens in Swanage, Dorset, funded by a legacy left to Purbeck cancer charity Cancare. 

The plans for the sanctuary garden were first proposed in November 2022 and it’s hoped that the quiet space where people will be able to sit and remember loved ones, will be completed in time to mark the charity’s 35th anniversary in May 2024.

A team from Wycliffe Landscapes has started the transformation of a neglected corner of Prince Albert Gardens

The team from Wycliffe Landscapes are transforming a corner of Prince Albert Gardens into a sanctuary garden of peace and tranquility

Wheelchair friendly paths

Dorset company Wycliffe Landscapes has started reshaping part of the gardens off Marshall Row near to the entrance of Swanage Pier, ready for planting in April 2024.

Dorset garden designer Michelle Brown, whose work has previously been exhibited at Kew Gardens, has worked on plans for the land which sits alongside Swanage Sea Rowing Club’s boathouse.

Existing trees will be kept, but new wheelchair friendly pathways will be laid around a central feature, seating introduced and new plants and flowers used in the landscaping.

While the exact design has yet to be finalised, features which have been discussed so far include Purbeck stone walls with seating incorporated into them, smooth stone boulders, solar floor lights, a bird bath and moon gates or timber arches at the entrance.

A coffee morning is being held by Cancare from 11 am until 1 pm at The Mowlem on Saturday 3rd February, 2024, for people who want to find out more about the charity or the garden itself.


The site was previously an underused and overlooked part of Prince Albert Gardens

Work is well underway on the site, pictured on Thursday 18th January 2024

A place for quiet reflection

Cancare secretary Gill Norman said:

“We were left a sum of money which had to be used for the good of the community and a memorial garden was suggested, so the charity opened discussions with Swanage Town Council to use a neglected corner of Prince Albert Gardens.

“We had hoped to start work on the construction by October, but we are very happy to see it under way now. The hard landscaping should be completed by March 2024, which will be the perfect time to plant it up and for it to be ready for use by the summer.

“We are looking to find some friends of the garden who would volunteer some time to weed the garden and keep it looking wonderful, and we have already had some interest.

“We see it being a beautiful spot which can be a place for quiet reflection, as well as being something which will benefit the whole community.”


Dorset designer Michelle Brown in the award winning sanctuary garden she created at Kew


Early plans for the Swanage site by garden designer Michelle Brown include many special features

35th anniversary in May 2024

Cancare, which celebrates its 35th anniversary in May 2024, was formed by two Purbeck women who both had cancer, had treatment and got better, and decided they wanted to do something to help people in the community who were going through the same thing.

Originally it was the intention to support cancer victims rather than to raise money, but the first person they visited needed a piece of equipment which wasn’t available on the NHS, so they held a coffee morning to raise funds for it and haven’t looked back since.

Today they raise thousands of pounds to support people in Purbeck who are fighting cancer, as well as their families and carers, with most of their funds covering travel expenses to and from hospital appointments.


One of Cancare’s recent fundraising projects, a treatment couch donated to Forest Holme Hospice

Offering advice to cancer patients

The charity also finances up to ten sessions with a qualified counsellor and helps to buy equipment not provided by the NHS, including wigs for hair loss caused by chemotherapy.

Most recently it has supported two local hospices by purchasing virtual reality headsets and equipment as well as funding a specialist chair for a lymphoedema clinic.

Cancare has also become a centre of expertise which can offer advice to those diagnosed with cancer and put patients in touch with the relevant agencies to meet their requirements.


Among ideas for the garden is a moon gate entrance feature such as the one above


Lighting options for the garden may include natural timber solar powered lights like these

Vision of a sanctuary garden

Gill Norman added:

“The greatest and continually ongoing outlay met by the charity is to cover the cost of transport to specialist hospitals as patients attend for treatment, consultant and follow-up appointments – a very costly undertaking as we are situated so far from the major treatment centres.

“Over the last 35 years we have been generously supported by many local individuals and organisations to whom we owe a great deal and extend our sincere gratitude.

“We were bequeathed a sum of money to use for the good of the community and following much consideration, we came up with this vision for a sanctuary garden where members of the public can spend some quiet time and remember loved ones, whilst enjoying the beautiful view.

“We are grateful for the support and advice given to us by Swanage Town Council and we hope that all the residents of the Isle of Purbeck will benefit from what we have envisaged for you.”

Further information

  • Contact Cancare for help or advice through its website
  • Be inspired by some previous projects from garden designer Michelle Brown

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