Eden Valley Hospice's gardens are a haven of tranquility for its residents, and a highly valued part of what makes the hospice a welcoming and comfortable place to be.

But during lockdown, the Carlisle hospice's gardens took on a new level of significance, as the only place some of the residents' family members were able to say their final goodbyes.

Eden Valley Hospice, on Durdar Road to the south of the city, holds an annual fundraising appeal for its gardens.

This year, the appeal has a special poignancy, given the vital role the gardens have played in allowing families to stay in touch with their loved ones at a distance.

Patients' bedrooms at Eden Valley Hospice open out onto the gardens, meaning that at the height of lockdown, when only one visitor per patient was allowed to enter the building, family members were able to visit at a distance while stood in the garden.

As such, the garden allowed patients to keep in touch with family members they would not have otherwise been able to see.

The gardens are maintained by a small team of volunteers, who have only recently been able to return as the lockdown rules have relaxed.

One of the volunteers is Nigel Faulkner, 70, who lives between Penrith and Appleby.

He has been making the trip to the hospice once a week for the past nine years to tend to the gardens.

"We often get comments about how nice the gardens are, and that means an awful lot to us," Nigel said.

"We feel immense pride that we're able to contribute to the welfare of everyone who comes here.

"It's an emotional time for people who come here, their visitors and the staff.

"Anything we can do to help lift their spirits and help them enjoy the natural world, it makes us feel immensely proud."

Deborah Skelton, one of Eden Valley Hospice's team leads, explained how the hospice gardens have become a more important space than ever in recent months for patients and their families.

"Not only for their peace and tranquillity generally but over our time of Covid restrictions, they have been our entry and exit for patients as they are admitted, discharged and leave for scans etc, and their families for visiting.

"The families have used them as an area to swap visitors or at the start of this, a way relatives could peer through the patio door to see their loved one when no visitors were allowed," she said.

Deborah added that the gardens have also served as a communal area in which patients and relatives could join in with the weekly clap for carers event.

"They have also been a lovely area to use for clap for carers as patients, relatives and loved ones didn’t need to go far to do this outside of their patio doors whilst also seeing others doing the same," she said.

"I imagine this offered people a feeling of connection seeing others who were occupying the hospice albeit socially distanced, they could ‘stand’ as one.

"It was also poignant to use the garden as a common area when standing to remember those key workers that have lost their life from Covid-19."

Visit www.edenvalleyhospice.org/support-us/fundraise/garden-of-memories-2020 to make a donation to this year's Garden of Memories appeal.