Central Scotland Green Network

Cumnock’s dementia-friendly ‘Memory Garden’ officially opens

Cumnock’s new dementia-friendly garden was formally opened on 9th June. The garden, which was developed by Cumnock Action Plan in partnership with the Green Action Trust, has been designed to be a peaceful and quiet greenspace, offering people with dementia and their carers opportunities for fresh air, gentle exercise and social interaction. 

Just like elsewhere in the UK, Cumnock has an aging population, with data suggesting more than 25% of the population is over 60 years old and trends showing that this will increase to closer to 30% over the next 5 years. For many over 60 today, as well as other age-related illness, dementia is also a reality, affecting one in fourteen people over 65 and one in six over 80 in the UK. 

Recognising that there wasn’t a safe or accessible greenspace within Cumnock suited to the needs of older people and specifically those with dementia, Cumnock Action Plan started to explore the idea of creating something suitable. They identified the site in Armitage Drive, a flat area of amenity grassland on the site of the former Shankston Bing recalling the town’s mining past.  The site, which is leased from East Ayrshire Council, sits within a residential area and is easily accessed on foot or by local bus. Green Action Trust then supported the group to develop and implement their ideas.   

The central feature of the garden is the artwork; three granite sculptures engraved with different surface pattern designs inspired by the stories and recollections of the people of Cumnock.

In early 2021, the design studio Bespoke Atelier engaged with a wide range of local people, senior citizens groups and people with dementia to gather stories, memories and recollections of old Cumnock. Through these conversations a number of themes emerged that have influenced the pattern and form of the sculptures.

“Reading Between the Lines” references the lines carved into the landscape from the mining and farming industries. These industries dominate the history books and ultimately led to the town’s expansion and development over the years. When reading between the lines of this well-known history we discover the stories and memories of local people, the life they lived and the true history of the town.

Within the garden there is also planting, dementia friendly seating and a series of exercise posts, designed by Paths for All specifically for those with dementia. These are simple exercises that when combined with a walk, will help to keep users active, happy and healthy in older age.

Phase 1 was supported by Life Changes Trust, Awards for All, EB Scotland, East Ayrshire Council’s Renewable Energy Fund, Corra Foundation, Shire Housing Association and the Mushroom Trust.  

Plans are now underway to develop the next phase of the garden, which will include more sensory planting, seating and activity spaces, as well as more strength and balance exercise posts.

It’s been great working in partnership with Cumnock Action Plan to turn this innovative idea into reality. The creation of green spaces that are accessible and usable by more people in our communities is such a key aspect of the CSGN, so it’s really rewarding to see projects like the memory garden come to fruition.

Gillian Barrie
Development Officer, Green Action Trust