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Stepping Out: Walks for Carers

Goodnestone Park Gardens: 25 May 2018

Following in the footsteps of Jane Austen, but in sturdier shoes, The "Stepping Out" walkers visited Goodnestone Park Gardens in May, the third in the series of eight walks this year.

A party of over 50 walkers, including the high-profile Kent dementia campaigners, Lorraine Brown and Wayne Eaton, were able to stroll through famous walled gardens or explore the woodland surrounding the estate. Francis Plumptre, youngest brother of the current owner, also offered a guided tour of the Queen Anne house where Jane Austenís brother once lived and to which she was a frequent visitor.
 
While the strong walkers were guided by Kent Ramblers on a woodland stroll, known as the 'Serpentine Walk', with views across acres of parkland to the house, the shorter walk took its participants through a string of walled gardens richly populated in wisteria, clematis, early roses and peonies. Goodnestone Church, which Jane Austen could approach through the gardenís back gate thereby avoiding the village hurly-burly, made a dramatic backdrop.
 
"Itís absolutely beautiful," said Lorraine, 65, the star of a national advertisement campaign for Alzeimerís Research UK who has been invited to 10 Downing Street later this summer to meet the Prime Minister and call for better treatment in employment for those with dementia. 
 
In 2014 she was diagnosed with dementia herself while working for the Mental Health Crisis team at Medway NHS Foundation Trust.  Her employment was terminated immediately.
 
"I had two years to go before I would have received my pension but I had 15 minutes to leave the building.  I believe I could still have been of great value to the team in a different role.  I could prove that you can still have a purposeful life beyond a diagnosis of dementia.  Thatís what I want to say to the Prime Minister.
 
"After my diagnosis I was in a dark place for about nine months to a year.  It was like a bad dream.  That's when I decided to leave a legacy for Alzheimerís Research in my will, to help future generations."
 
Wayne Eaton, 62, a powerful campaigner for living well with dementia who has two different types of the condition himself, said: "Weíre living proof that it is possible to live a good life with dementia and an employer cannot get rid of people without 'just cause'.  Our view is that having dementia is not 'just cause'. Some people think we should be immediately removed to 'Dementia World'.  But the world is the world, and we want to be in it.  We can still offer so much value to ourselves and the society around us.
 
"We can stay well for longer too and exercise is great part of that. I can't ride my bike any more but I can still enjoy a wonderful walk."
 
Wayne was Master of Ceremonies at the Medway Dementia Action Alliance Conference at Rochester Cathedral in May, attended by Sports Minister and Kent MP, Tracy Crouch.

The 'Stepping Out' project, created by Kent Ramblers and sponsored by Sport England, offers sociable and scenic walks for carers and the people they care for at some of the most picturesque venues in the country. http://www.kentramblers.org.uk/carer_walks/
 
https://www.sportengland.org/news-and-features/news/2017/october/17/breath-of-fresh-air-for-carers/
 
For more information on Goodnestone Park Gardens https://www.goodnestoneparkgardens.co.uk/