Dear Reader: New approach to dementia + Thorp Perrow's amazing natural wonder

A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

I’ve always thought a good journalist is a natural critic but that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has the solution to anything.

So it was heartening to meet a couple of people last week who saw a problem and decided to do something about it.

Rainbow Day Care was set up on a shoestring in Starbeck by two women who wanted to help people living with dementia, filling the gap in the system between care homes and what is labelled ‘care in the community’.

Having quit their jobs, this dynamic duo have now set up similar groups in Knaresborough, Ripon, Boston Spa and Wetherby.

But it remains a small hands-on operation. When I asked Megan and Natalie the day I paid a visit to their Wetherby centre who their staff were they simply replied they were.

Influenced by their ‘can do’ spirit, I sat in on one of their relaxed sessions with the former doctors and teachers and engineers whose lives have taken such a drastic turn of direction thanks to Alzheimer’s.

I felt quite at home in the group. Perhaps it was because I once worked in a dementia ward or maybe it was because there was much chatting and laughter in the room.

The experience brought back to mind a lesson I’d learnt in my brief spell as a nursing assistant all those years ago during one brief but transformative summer.

All of us are more vulnerable than we think and all of us need to turn to others for help when the crunch comes.

I’m no gardener but I know what I like.

I’ve been to the Chelsea Flower Show a few times and enjoyed it, though manicured gardens and regimental flower beds aren’t really my thing.

Fortunately, when I was shown round Thorp Perrow Arboretum near Bedale recently I discovered they weren’t entirely the curator’s thing either.

Not only does Faith look after 100 acres of some of the finest park land in the UK, not to forget its lake or the mammal and bird of prey centre, she also had a hand in the coming together of Welcome to Yorkshire’s garden at Chelsea this year which won Silver.

But her heart clearly lies in less perfect places, in the natural wildness of the woodland walks and nature trails of Thorp Perrow.

It’s a location with history and soul, from the giant oak tree said to have been planted in 1535 by Catherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s six wives, to the stately manor house where the current owners live.

For looking after the magnificent trees of Thorp Perrow is a family business in every sense of the word.

Lady Ropner likes to do some planting herself and can be spotted occasionally on a mower.

And if you look closely at the scare crow in the Help for Heroes Garden, it’s wearing a jacket and trousers donated by the late Sir John Ropner who sadly passed away earlier this year.