Chatty Bench at Long Ashton

We are delighted that the second Chatty Bench funded by The Audley Foundation has recently been installed in Long Ashton, located close to Audley Redwood.
Mrs Anne Foster, Trustee of the Foundation and owner at Audley Chalfont Dene shared with us the importance of the Chatty Benches.


Growing older inevitably brings many changes to our lives. Some issues are easy to foresee, and to plan for: weaker bodies, declining mobility, reduced independence, wrinkles and increased ill-health. Other matters can often catch us unawares and take us by surprise, especially changes in our social contacts: people we have known and loved either become inactive and less mobile or are harder to reach as they move away from the local areas where we used to meet. Death finally closes all doors.
Our social circle inevitably becomes smaller, and it does seem difficult to form fresh friendships. The young appear more interested in their mobile devices than in conversation; we are invited to fewer parties and ever more funerals and wakes; increasingly, we can become lonelier as we age. Social isolation is now reaching worrying levels nation-wide.
Human beings have always been social creatures who need contacts to flourish, so this problem of loneliness must be addressed. The Audley Foundation charity is taking steps towards tackling social isolation by its Chatty Bench project, an initiative which extends the provision of friendship seats in school playgrounds. It has been quickly recognised that even very young children can feel the need to talk to someone when they want comfort and a reassuring chat and today there are very few school playgrounds without a seat to offer this to everyone. The Foundation’s plan is to extend this type of opportunity to the more mature, to encourage people to talk to others, and perhaps even to begin fresh friendships.
To this end, The Foundation has begun to place benches close to areas where Audley villages are located. Each bench is carefully positioned in an area attracting frequent footfall; each bears the Audley logo and the invitation to “rest awhile for conversation and good company” as well as the charity’s mission statement to “make a lasting difference to the lives of older people”.
The very first bench was placed in a memorial garden in the centre of Chalfont Saint Peter, close to the Audley village of Chalfont Dene, and immediately proved a great success; indeed, on the official opening day in May 2023, much interest was shown by local passers-by. And now the Foundation proudly celebrates the second chatty bench, positioned in the parish of Long Ashton, close to the village of Audley Redwood, Bristol. This new bench was installed in May 2024 and already negotiations are in place with at least 2 other villages for their benches. The eventual aim is for every village to have its own seat, thus spreading information about the charity and its work among the elderly. Many villages are taking up the challenge, and plan to place a bench in their own locality.
With two benches now in place, we accept that The Foundation has merely started its journey with a few first steps towards easing the massive problem of social isolation, but we are proud already to have begun to make a lasting local difference where the benches are installed, and we continue our efforts to build on this initial success.

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