Award-winning Lightwater Country Park has a new attraction - a ‘Bench of Hope’.
It’s part of an initiative linked to the hit Netflix series After Life, in conjunction with suicide prevention charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).
Just like in After Life, where the touching ‘bench scenes’ featuring Ricky Gervais’s character Tony have become iconic, the hope is that our bench will be a place that people can sit and think, talk and listen in the beautiful surroundings of the park.
The bench, overlooking peaceful Hammonds Pond, is inscribed with a quote from After Life - ‘Hope is Everything’ - and a plaque saying “This bench is donated by Netflix to commemorate Ricky Gervais' 'After Life'.”
The bench is one of 25 commissioned in partnership with CALM, who offer help, advice and information to anyone who is struggling or in crisis.
Those who visit the bench will be able to access resources from CALM via a unique QR code with the wording ‘Life can be tough, but there’s always hope. Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is by your side’ - and online by visiting the CALM website.
Surrey Heath Portfolio Holder for Support and Safeguarding Cllr Shaun Garrett said: "The After Life Bench of Hope is a great initiative, letting people know there is somewhere they can go to just sit and reflect – and also that there are people out there who care, and are there to help if they need it.
“The last 18 months have been difficult for everyone, and I know that many people - both adults and children - have really struggled with their mental health. Some have reached the point where they feel their life is no longer worth living, which is devastating.
“The ‘Hope is Everything’ inscription on the bench is a powerful statement.
“I’m no Ricky Gervais, but I know talking about what’s on your mind is really important and helpful – and the link on the bench to the CALM website, with its mental
health resources, is a brilliant idea.
“I hope lots of people take the opportunity to visit the bench, and benefit from it."
Surrey Heath Portfolio Holder for Places and Strategy, Cllr Rebecca Jennings-Evans said: “This fantastic new Bench of Hope is yet another reason for people to visit our beautiful and award-winning Lightwater Country Park.
“We know that physical health and mental health are closely related.
“Getting out in the great outdoors, enjoying a walk in the park, and stopping to sit and have a chat on the bench on the way, can give you a real boost.
“I hope all of our benches across the borough can play a similar role to this new bench – and be places where people can stop, enjoy the view, and talk about what’s important to them.”
The bench at Lightwater is one of 25 donated to local councils across the UK in locations including Bath, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool and Cardiff.
After Life creator and star Ricky Gervais said: “We hope the benches will create a lasting legacy for After Life, as well as become a place for people to visit, and we are thrilled to be associated with CALM and the great work they do.”
CEO of CALM Simon Gunning said: “Park benches provide opportunities to reflect, talk to someone, sit shoulder to shoulder with someone and get things off your chest.
“That is why we’re delighted to team up with Netflix to put benches in parks across the country - inscribed with that crucial line from the show, ‘Hope is everything’ - to help people have those conversations and to show it’s normal to have those feelings.”
Green Flag Award-winning Lightwater Country Park
is predominantly heathland habitat, but there are also ponds, woodland, meadows and areas of scrub. These habitats offer the opportunity to observe a wide variety of wildlife, birds, mammals, plants and insects.
The area of heathland within the Country Park has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), so is an area of high nature conservation value.
The park also offers a café, children’s playground, educational service, walking trails, grazing livestock, bee hive, fishing, plus a leisure centre with associated playing fields and sports facilities.
All of SHBC’s parks have remained open throughout the pandemic, allowing local people to enjoy the great outdoors and the benefits to mental and physical health that open spaces offer.