As today is officially the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I would take the opportunity to go to Prospect Hospice, our local hospice, which is situated in a village just outside Swindon.  

Prospect Hospice is a registered charity and last year it costs more than £8m to provide the care and raise the funds to provide care for patients and their families from quite a wide area.  They receive less than 30% of their income from statutory organisations such as the NHS – the rest they raise themselves, so as you can imagine, it requires a huge fund-raising effort, together with lots of enthusiasm and dedication not only from the trained staff but also from hundreds of volunteers, who give of their time and skills.  

As it says in their booklet Getting to Know Prospect Hospice : “…..without this incredible contribution from hundreds of volunteers…..we couldn’t provide the care and make the difference that we do for thousands of people in our community every year.” 

I rang and spoke to Andrew, the Senior Communications Manager, to explain about Blip and my self-imposed challenge, A Seat With a View, and asked if I could take a few photographs from a seat in their beautiful garden.  He was happy to give permission, but asked that I did not take any photographs of patients or staff;  he reminded me, when I mentioned Pinktober, that Prospect Hospice did not only care for breast cancer patients, but provides dedicated end-of-life care and respite for people living in our community, which of course, I did know.

I remember when the hospice was first set up in 1980 because I used to do a collection of little cardboard boxes that people filled with money, twice a year in the road in which we lived.  I did it for sometime and in the early 1980s mostly pennies ended up in the boxes, but every little helps.  I used to count all the money, pay it into the bank, and then redistribute the boxes.  It was a good opportunity to meet our neighbours, although it always took longer to collect them than I had envisaged, because often people wanted to chat - but when there are almost 90 houses, you can imagine it was more than a ten minute task.  I always felt it was a worthwhile thing to do though, because Mr. HCB and I felt that we never knew when we might need to call on the services of the hospice and, in fact, quite a few relatives and friends have used their services in there over the years.

Their website is very well set out with lots of information including this:

Prospect Hospice supports a community of more than 300,000 people in Swindon, Marlborough and north Wiltshire, and the villages of Lechlade and Fairford in Gloucestershire. In 2016-17 Prospect Hospice cared for and supported almost 6,600 people, as patients, carers and family members, through a range of services developed to bring care, comfort and confidence at life’s most difficult time. For patients, there are teams of nurses, doctors and therapists, bringing care at the hospice in Wroughton, at the Outreach Centre in Marlborough, in their own homes and care homes and through a palliative care team based at the Great Western Hospital. Carers and family members also access services designed to help their coping when a loved one has accessed our care.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as sunny today as it was yesterday, but it was still a beautiful place to visit and of course, the trees are looking particularly good at this time of year.  The top left photograph shows the entrance to the hospice - I took this being careful not to include the four men standing outside, three of them obviously visiting a friend, who was in a wheelchair.  As I walked over, at least two of them told me that they had smiled when they saw me taking photographs - it’s amazing how easy it is to chat to people when you are holding a camera, so we stopped and chatted to them for a few minutes.

When we got into reception, a lovely young  man, named Gareth, the Communications Officer, came to meet us, and I was pleased that Andrew had told him we would be coming today.  I explained to Gareth about Blip as we made our way over to Bluebell Walk.  We chatted for a while and then he left us so that we could just carry on and he said we could wander around the garden.  Bluebell Walk is a beautiful area with a small pond where families and friends can sponsor a stone or a paver in memory of a loved one.  It was very poignant reading these and of course, it is a wonderful way not only to remember someone but also to contribute to the future of the Hospice.  

Not only are there plenty of seats around, but there is also a summerhouse, and of course, as you all know, I love blue, so to see the blue seats and summerhouse was an added bonus for me.  As we wandered along the winding paths of the Bluebell Walk, I looked into the neighbouring field and saw this and several other cows grazing.  These are part of Berkeley Farm Dairy, owned and run by the Gosling family, who have been producing and supplying Guernsey milk since 1908.  According to their website, they currently milk 120 free range Guernsey cows - this one was particularly friendly, but sadly I wasn’t able to get near enough to tie a pink ribbon round its neck!

Mr. HCB drove me to the Hospice and I must pay tribute to him because he is always there to help in any way and I am really grateful - for that reason, and because he has been so good all through Pinktober, I didn’t ask him to wear the pink ribbon on his hat, but just tied it to the seat and you can see him waiting patiently in the middle photograph.  I wore my pink gilet and although I don’t like my photograph taken, when I mentioned to Mr. HCB, he grabbed the camera out of my hand before I could change my mind!

The lodge, pictured at the bottom of the collage is one of two built in the grounds with a grant from the Department of Health - as Gareth explained, sometimes the relatives of families come some way to visit, so it is good to have this facility right next to the Hospice to make things easier for them and to save them worrying about where they will stay at a time of great concern when a loved one is ill.

We were happy to just wander around the gardens and saw some beautiful flowers, including this pink Cosmos, pink Hollyhocks, and a Honeysuckle, which was still flowering profusely and smelt wonderful.  We had never been into the gardens before, and were really struck with how peaceful and tranquil it was, just the right setting to calm and soothe not only patients but also families and friends when they visit the Hospice.

When we went back inside and spoke to one of the receptionists, we were remarking to her how welcoming it was, and the stained glass depiction of Liddington Hill is superb.  It struck me that the reflection of the ambulance in the stained glass screen typified the fact that although this was a place for many requiring end-of-life care, there was a lot of coming and going and it is certainly not a gloomy place - in fact, there was a lot of laughter.

We went round to look in the small shop and were surprised to see a Carers’ Café that was doing a very good trade.  We happened to meet a lady we knew and when I asked if we could buy a cup of coffee, she told us we could even have lunch - so we did!  Well, it will save me cooking tonight and it helped Prospect Hospice too.  

I also bought some Christmas wrapping paper from the shop, my family will be pleased to know - it's a standing joke that I re-use last year's wrapping paper, and this year will be no exception, but I may even use some of the new Prospect Hospice paper!

Whilst it is true that a Church is not just a building but is made up of the people, this is obviously the case too with Prospect Hospice - there was a wonderful atmosphere there, and it was obvious to us that those who were working enjoyed being there with friends and colleagues, and of course, this must inevitably spill over to the patients and their families, carers and friends and all those affected by long-term illnesses.

Both Mr. HCB and I consider it was a privilege to visit Prospect Hospice and as it is one of the charities we contribute to all year round, it was good to be there today and to see the work that is going on.

“Strength does not come
     from physical capacity.
It comes from 
     an indomitable will.”
Mahatma Gandhi

P.S.  Thank you so much to all of you who have clicked on this link to provide mammograms for those who cannot afford to pay - you do not have to stop clicking just because it is the end of October - so you have permission to "Carry on clicking" on this link.  Bless you all.

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