Patients and visitors at a Derwentside hospice will be enjoying views of the surrounding countryside in greater comfort thanks to the North East’s biggest building society.

Willow Burn Hospice in Lanchester aims to improve the quality of life for people living with terminal and life-limiting illnesses while also supporting families and carers by offering high-quality community-based palliative and end of life care.

As part of the development of its new Helen McArdle Wing inpatient unit, the hospice has turned an adjacent 1.2 acre piece of land into a relaxing and practical outside space that can be used by residents, families and people living nearby.

And now, thanks to a £896 grant awarded through Newcastle Building Society’s Middle Street branch in Consett, it has installed a new pergola in the garden to provide a protected place from which people can enjoy the fresh air and views across Derwentside.

Founded in 1989, Willow Burn is the only adult hospice in the area and provides a range of specialist services that enable people with a palliative diagnosis to make the most out of life.

To help boost its post-pandemic revenues, it is planning to launch a small garden retail space called The Potting Shed when its volunteer-led café reopens later this summer where people will be able to purchase plants and small garden items.

Kirsty Crozier, Director of Operations at Willow Burn Hospice, says: “The outside environment is an essential part of what we provide at Willow Burn and we involved patients, staff and volunteers in the design and development of the new garden facilities to make sure they provide what everyone wanted.

“They’re open to everyone to visit, so as we’re gradually able to get things back to normal, we’re hoping to see lots of new faces from the community taking in the wonderful views of the Derwent Valley, walking around the gardens or enjoying refreshments in our café.

“The funding we’ve had from Newcastle Building Society will add to the enjoyment that our patients, families and visitors can get from the garden and we’re very grateful for their generous support.

“Our focus moving forward is to build up our sustainable income streams, including through the introduction of The Potting Shed which we think will really appeal to everyone visiting and spending time with us.”

The funding for the pergola has been provided by the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which was set up to offer grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network, and put forward for support by its customers.

Linda Creegan, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Consett branch, adds: “Willow Burn is set in a beautiful location and provides invaluable support to local people and families facing incredibly challenging situations.

“Its commitment to supporting its communities very much mirrors our own and we’re very pleased to help the hospice add to the facilities it can offer in its wonderful garden.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also contributed over £1.8m in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Society also made a £100,000 contribution to the £1m appeal set up by the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation for its Coronavirus Recovery and Response Fund.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

For further information on the services provided by Willow Burn Hospice, please visit https://willow-burn.co.uk/