They may look like humble benches at first, but two Trafford initiatives have created a buzz about benches for their communities and made them much more than simply a place to sit down!

The Happy To Chat bench

Altrincham has launched a modern twist on the popular scheme of the friendship bench, with the introduction of their ‘Happy to Chat’ bench. It’s located close to Altrincham market so will get plenty of use over the coming weeks and months.

The concept is bought to Altrincham by Chris Oldfield of Altrincham Matters. Chris says that the reason he has pushed this through is so that there is somewhere people can go who are feeling lonely and want to chat. Mental Health is something that we are all becoming more aware of as a society, and this bench will provide a space for people to meet – albeit for a 5 minute pit stop or to eat your lunch.

If the trial is successful there are plans for a second bench to be dedicated to the scheme in the coming months.

The scheme is popular in schools where it has been a hit for the younger or shy children to go and make new friends. There is potential this could happen in Altrincham too. new friendships could be established and help people conquer fears or feel less alone.

 

Ashton on Mersey Community Benches
As part of the Ashton on Mersey Village in Bloom initiative, and to help make the village more ‘dementia friendly’, a number of special benches have appeared over the last few months. Each has a different name and story, and encourages people to stop, have a rest, think and make friends.

From ‘The Friendship Bench’ in the village to ‘The Chatty Bench’ outside the residents home Townscroft Lodge.  The ‘Family Bench’ to ‘Friendships Blossoming’ outside the local florist, and many more besides, the community benches have been very successful in the town.

Stories are already being shared about people stopping and sitting down to talk to people they haven’t seen in many years, and rekindling their friendship for the future. Those that are less able have lots of opportunities to take a seat if needed when they visit the village. Many of the shop owners also took part in the Home Instead ‘Dementia Friends’ workshop.  This helped them to understand how people within their community with dementia can be supported to lead an independent and active life.

There is an extra special bench outside the local butchers to remember local resident Heather Gresty.  In her 70’s Heather would visit the shop with her own containers and request that her purchases be placed in these rather than use plastic bags. Heather has been hailed as their “first anti-plastic crusader” with her environmentally friendly requests.

So, next time you sit down on a bench you may just be sitting on something that has been placed there with a special meaning, or to remember someone, or maybe to help and support the community. They can be much more than simply a bench – they can be a lifeline for some, and support and encouragement for others.

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