Chesham special needs home dedicates community garden to late friend

John Godden cutting the ribbon standing alongside an individual in a wheelchair with other individuals and support workers in the background at the opening of Birchwood Memorial Garden

Birchwood, a Salutem residential care home in Chesham for people with complex special needs and disabilities, has dedicated a new community garden to the memory of a late friend.

Tina Sharp, who had cerebral palsy and dysphagia, passed away last year from a kidney condition aged 55.

Birchwood opened in 2004 and Tina was one of the first individuals to be supported by the service, and her friends and family were keen to have a quiet space to remember her.

The garden was created by the Friends of Birchwood volunteer group, who raised £1600 and in addition to Tina’s memorial bench, supplied planting areas with water butts to all the people supported by the home, a gazebo, and a path which allows wheelchair access to the garden.

The friends have been actively trying to improve the outdoor space for people supported by Birchwood since 2017, to make it more accessible for those with mobility issues.

A piece of stained-glass artwork – a series of ‘energy balls’ inspired by several late friends of the home – was also commissioned to hang in the garden.


Group picture of individuals walking up the path of Birchwood Memorial Garden with one person pushing a wheelchair user


 John Godden MBE, CEO of Salutem Care and Education, which operates Birchwood, officially opened the garden at the service’s Jubilee garden party.

He said: “It was an honour to be invited to Birchwood to open the community garden.

“It has the perfect mix of visual natural beauty, opportunities to create and grow, and artwork honouring the creative spirit of the individuals we support.

“The volunteers have done a fantastic job to make it a sensory experience for all, as well as a place for quiet contemplation. It is perfect.”

Anita Osborne, a volunteer with Friends of Birchwood, said: “There has always been a great deal of creative talent at Birchwood, and Tina was a beautiful artist, so I am delighted we’ve been able to honour her memory in such a fitting way.

“There have been so many people involved from the conception of a garden space five years ago to the beautiful space we have today, I couldn’t possibly name them all, but every person who has raised money, helped with the planting, laid the paving stones and made suggestions has been invaluable.

“Although the garden is now officially open, we still have plans to develop it further. It will have the opportunity to grow with the individuals supported at Birchwood.”


Birchwood Memorial Gardens featuring Birchwood building in the background with path and green lawn in the foreground

The memorial bench is inscribed with a poem written for Tina:

She held her loved ones dear and fierce,

Shared joy and sadness with her whole being,

Danced her wheelchair just like a ballerina,

Loved ladybirds, yellow, holidays and art.

We miss you.