North East Connected

Willow Burn Hospice Garden Plans Taking Root Thanks To £25,000 Banks Group Grant

Plans to create extensive new community gardens at a Derwentside hospice have taken a major step forward with the award of a five-figure project grant from a regional employer.


As part of the development of its new inpatient unit which is due to open later in the year, Willow Burn Hospice in Lanchester is looking to turn a 1.2 acre piece of land alongside the new facility into a relaxing and practical outside space that can be used by residents, families and people living nearby.


A £25,000 grant has been provided by the County Durham-headquartered Banks Group in support of the project via its Banks Community Fund, which represents a third of the overall budget, and further funding is now being sought by the Willow Burn team to enable work to start in the coming months.


The gardens will contain four distinct areas, with those who will use it as well as Hospice staff and volunteers being involved in the design and development process to ensure they contain all the facilities they want to see.


A new landscaped garden including wildflower areas, a lawn, glazed feature wall, outdoor terrace, shrubs and planted borders including sensory planting and light canopy trees will be created alongside a working garden featuring a shed, greenhouse, composting area and raised planters, while woodland planting will be used for training, therapeutic and food growing initiatives.


A public patio enclosed by woodland and clipped hedges will be open to the public and available to hire for events and functions, while a woodland meadow filled with wild flora and native woodland bulbs will also be generally accessible via Willow Burn’s community café.


The garden will also include a network of footpaths, including a memory path along which families will be able to place engraved bricks as memorials to their loved ones.


Willow Burn Hospice has been providing community based palliative and end of life care for almost three decades, and aims to improve the quality of life for people living with terminal and life-limiting illnesses while also supporting families and carers.


It is the only adult hospice in Derwentside, and provides a range of specialist services that enable people with a palliative diagnosis to make the most out of life, including aromatherapy, reiki, massage and relaxation sessions.


Nicola Doherty, grants and trusts coordinator at Willow Burn Hospice, says: “We’d originally included the gardens within the overall in-patient unit project, but budget priorities meant we’ve needed to look elsewhere for the funding required to create them.


“In a rural location like Derwentside, the availability of familiar outside space is extremely important to patients and their families, and talking to them as well as our staff and volunteers about how the gardens will look has been a key part of the design process.


“The gardens will not only act as a place for peace and tranquillity and a space for remembering, but also as somewhere where people can carry on with the sorts of practical outdoor activities that they’ve always enjoyed.


“Making these concepts a reality would simply be out of our reach without this sort of external support, and the Banks Group’s very generous contribution to our work has brought our garden plans a great deal closer to being realised in the foreseeable future.”


Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, adds: “Willow Burn Hospice provides invaluable support, advice and comfort to hundreds of North East families every year who are going through the most difficult times imaginable


“The new inpatient unit will add greatly to the work they can do, and as a long-established County Durham business, we’re very pleased to be helping to create the kind of welcoming outside environment that the Willow Burn team wants to offer to patients, their families and the local community.”


“If you would like to know more about Willow Burn’s garden project or would like to make a donation, please visit the website or email


Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations looking for grant funding from the Banks Community Fund should contact James Eaglesham on 0191 378 6342 or visit

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