Campaigners who are walking hundreds of miles across England to highlight great community initiatives described Bottesford’s Friendly Bench as one of the most inspirational they had visited when they rested there today (Wednesday).
Londoners Katherine Horsham and Steve Barnabie are taking part in The Big Walk, an idea put forward by the Eden Project and made possible by the National Lottery.
The Friendly Bench, which was opened in Granby Drive in March to help elderly residents in the neighbourhood overcome loneliness by providing them with a place to meet, was one of the projects carefully selected by the duo as worthy of a visit.
The visit to the Bottesford scheme came on day eight of her three-week journey which has seen Katherine walk over 80 miles since she started out in the Lancashire town of Morecambe on May 16.
She said: “The Friendly Bench is one of the best projects I have visited, so far.
“It’s amazing that such a simple idea can transform people’s lives.
“It was great to hear that the idea of a Friendly Bench has really taken off and that there are people across England who want to have their own Friendly Bench.”
The bench scheme, which is also used by those with limited mobility as a place of rest as they walk to the shops, was created and founded by Lyndsey Young, who said it had already had an amazing effect on residents.
She said: “We’ve had people who have not left their home for over a year coming outside.
“We have residents coming together and making new friends, so we are linking people who literally live on each other’s doorsteps but have never met.
“The bench is also bringing different generations together which is also exciting, pre-school and primary children are mixing with elderly people and finding they have common interests.”
The Big Walk is an annual event visiting different projects and community groups and aims to meet the people making a real difference to local lives.
Four teams of walkers set off from Morecambe – chosen as the geographical centre of the UK – live on television on The One Show. They will travel to their respective homes in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England.
En route, walkers will be sharing an invitation to everyone to bring their own community together for a Big Lunch event on June 3. Last year, 9.3 million people enjoyed themselves at 96,000 lunch events across the UK.
Anyone interested in organising a Big Lunch in Melton or one of the villages can go online at www.thebiglunch.com to order a free pack.