New sanctuary garden officially opened in Swanage

Designed as a quiet place to sit and reflect, a beautiful garden has been created in Swanage for cancer charity Cancare, made possible by a generous bequest from a local couple.

The garden situated in a corner of Prince Albert Gardens, overlooking the bay was planned by RHS Chelsea garden designer Michelle Brown from Weymouth and built by Bournemouth company Wycliffe Landscapes.

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

Happy that the rain stayed away, the Cancare team and supporters enjoy the garden

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

Helping those with cancer for 35 years

Marking 35th anniversary of Cancare

The official opening happened on Saturday 18th May 2024, just in time to coincide with the Swanage based charity’s 35th anniversary.

Due to the threat of rain, which fortunately held off, the speeches and words of thanks took place inside the Swanage Sea Rowing Club, handily located next door to the new garden.

Cancare was founded by Swanage residents Gill Norman and Vicki Fooks in 1989. Gill had just been treated for cancer, while Vicki had been diagnosed a year earlier.

Inspired by a friend in Bournemouth who had been helped by a cancer support group, Gill suggested that maybe they should set up a similar group in Swanage.

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

Cancare founders Vicki Fooks (left) and Gill Norman (right)

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

A number of bouquets were presented but a special bunch of flowers was given by Ellie-Maeve (left) to Vicki in recognition of all the extra hardwork she put into making the garden all come together

“Way of helping the most people”

Vicki Fooks said:

“At first, it was all about helping people cope with their diagnosis and providing information to prepare for treatment, but as the charity expanded, we’ve helped fund individuals by providing equipment like specialist beds and transport to hospital appointments.

“We’ve also donated equipment to both Swanage and Wareham hospitals, as well as Forest Holme hospice.

“And then we heard that the charity was to receive a generous legacy, so it was then a question of how best to spend the money. There were a few ideas and then it was suggested that a sanctuary garden could be a way of helping the most people.

“We contacted Simon Goldsack at Holme for Gardens and he recommended our designer Michelle Brown, and from those conversations, we found Wycliffe Landscapes.

“All we needed was the location and then, one day we were at the Music by the Sea concert in memory of Henry Searle, whose family we’ve supported, and spotted this corner of Prince Albert Gardens which was a bit neglected. We asked the council and they agreed.

“Now we have this lovely garden but this is just the beginning, as the plants will grow and develop. We’ve got plenty of ideas for the future!”

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

January 2024 the team from Wycliffe Landscapes start work. Alex Walker (left) said that he loves the end result and appreciates it more everytime he returns to see the garden

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

The finished result in May 2024

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

Making it all possible, Canon Vernon White (left), the Godson of the benefactor blesses the garden

Legacy left by Margaret and Ian Crofts

At the official opening of the garden was Canon Vernon White, the Godson of Margaret Crofts who left the legacy to Cancare, alongside a few other charitable causes.

Margaret, along with her husband Ian, retired to Swanage and lived here for about 30 years.

Vernon, who travelled down from Salisbury in Wiltshire for the event said:

“I think my Godmother would have loved this garden. She loved the natural world and people, and this brings them both together in such a wonderful location with a lovely seaview.

“This is really a legacy from both Margaret and Ian, her husband who died a few years before her. I’m sure they would be thrilled – it’s so wonderful and while it’s close to the centre of the town, the garden still retains a sense of peace.

“I look forward to coming back and visiting the garden and thinking of them both, among others.”

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

Oversized moongates to make people feel child-like again

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

Only time will tell what the community thinks of the garden!

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

Garden designer Michelle Brown has evey right to be proud of the picture perfect garden

Garden designer for RHS Chelsea

The sanctuary garden was designed by Michelle Brown, who teaches at Kingston Maurward college near Dorchester and has worked as a garden designer for 25 years. Michelle said:

“I’m immensely proud of the garden – I’ve really fallen in love with it and it’s a real privilege to be able to turn a dream into a reality.

“The idea behind the design is for people to walk through the oversized moongates and feel like a small child again. Back to the days of peace, love and happiness, when you had no responsibilities.

“Our inner default is being happy and when we face challenges, it’s helpful to take time to sit quietly and reflect in a space like this garden. The answers to our problems are all inside ourselves.

“We know what we need to do, we just need to listen to ourselves. This is the sanctuary which I hope the garden can offer to the local community.”

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

Cutting the cake to mark 35 years of the charity. Left to right: Vicki Fooks, Sue Corben and Gill Norman

“So much better than I could envisage”

Swanage resident Sue Corben, now chair of Cancare, having taken over the role from her husband John a few years ago, said:

“I’m really overcome by the way the garden has turned out – it’s so much better than I could envisage. Everyone has worked so hard together and it’s been a real pleasure to be involved.

“I feel it’s really enhanced Prince Albert Gardens – it was already a lovely place to visit and this has just made it even better!”

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

With rain forecast, the start of the event was held in the Swanage Sea Rowing clubhouse

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

Lots of guests gathered to hear the speeches and see the presentations

“Like being in paradise”

Cancare founder Gill Norman added:

“This garden to me is a haven – earlier I sat on a bench and a robin and a blackbird were in the garden singing. The sea was so blue and honestly it was like being in paradise.”

“I’m sure the whole community in Swanage is going to love it like we do and we are just so grateful for such a generous donation.”

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

The Purbeck stone was provided by Suttle Stone Quarries

Cancare sanctuary garden official opening

Halo, Amber and Cassie make themselves at home in the new garden!

Watch the opening ceremony

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