Wildflowers in the garden

Martlets’ 25th Anniversary Garden Party

Last weekend, we celebrated Martlets’ 25th anniversary with a garden party. We brought together more than 120 long serving staff members, volunteers and supporters. 

On Saturday 25 June, while many were dancing in fields at Glastonbury, Martlets was celebrating its 25th anniversary in Framfield with a Garden party! The aim of the event was to celebrate all that Martlets has achieved since the doors opened in 1997. Also, we wanted to look ahead to an exciting future as we rebuild the hospice. Our guests shared stories about their involvement with Martlets, and we were able to strengthen existing supporter relationships and create some new ones.  

We were joined on the outskirts of Uckfield by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex Andrew Blackman, Chair of the Martlets Board Juliet Smith and CEO Claire Irving. Along with members of the fundraising team, and our leadership team and trustees. Kathy Gore OBE, DL, very generously opened her doors and invited us into her home, a beautiful late 18th century house set in approximately 11 acres. Kathy is an ambassador for Martlets. She was part of the original fundraising committee for Martlets in 1995. Kathy was a trustee for many years before moving into her ambassadorial role. Live music was played by the band 29 Fingers and of course there was plenty of tea and cake. 

A big thank you to everyone who helped make the party such a great success. Our guests enjoyed the music, food, conversation, speeches and the spectacular setting. After much crossing of fingers, the sun came out and the rain stayed away! 

Ali’s story 

Ali Booth was a guest at our Garden Party and her mum was one of Martlets’ first inpatients when the hospice opened in 1997. She talks about the care Martlets gave to her family and why she continues to support Martlets 25 years on. 

“I’ve always held Martlets dear to my heart because they took great care of my mum Peggy back then. It was lovely to be invited along to the Garden Party last weekend and to reflect on 25 years of Martlets’ care. It’s also been 25 years since Mum died. She was one of Martlets’ first patients in 1997, so I’ve been thinking a lot about her and all that she’s missed of my life over the years. I was 29 when she died and so much has happened since then. Martlets has set up an online dedication page to share memories of people’s loved ones cared for at the hospice, and other reflections about the past 25 years. It’s such a nice idea and it’s been a wonderful thing to put up a photo of Mum and to write a little piece about her. 

I was hoping to meet staff at the Garden Party who cared for Mum back in 1997. I got talking to a lovely nurse who worked the nightshift on the inpatient unit (IPU) back then. She would have looked after Mum. She was there right from the beginning when Martlets opened. The nurse is still working on Martlets’ IPU now, 25 years’ later. The nurses do such amazing work and she must have cared for so many people at Martlets over the years. 

Ali's mum in a field

What I remember most about Martlets when Mum was ill was the warm welcome we got – instead of feeling like a hospital, it felt like a home from home and all the staff were so kind. 

Martlets really cared for me and my family as well as Mum. The staff always asked how we were feeling and offered practical and emotional support. They always had time for us even though they were busy. Mum had cancer and attended as a day patient initially. This helped her so much as she was meeting other people that were going through similar things. But then she deteriorated quite quickly and stayed on Martlets’ IPU during the last week of her life. She was in a lovely room overlooking the garden and was so well looked after.  

It was 12 June when Mum died and although the gardens at Martlets had only recently been planted, there was a sense of peace and being able to get out into nature. There were some flowers coming out and I appreciated being able to sit out there and walk around and reflect.  

The other day I happened to see some photos online of the gardens now and it’s amazing to see how everything has grown and matured. The outside space is so important for visiting families. I’m pleased to hear that when the new hospice is built every patient room will open onto the gardens. 

Ali at the Garden Party with a member of our team

Martlets is a charity I will always fundraise for as I’ll never forget the support they gave us. I hope other families can benefit from the same amazing care. 

In 2009, I ran the London Marathon with my sister-in-law, to raise money for Martlets. I think we raised around £4,000 which was great. I also play the Martlets Lottery every month. I’ve won several prizes over the years, though I usually pay them back as it’s another way of offering support. What’s great about playing their lottery is that you pay it direct debit and don’t even notice the money going out of your account. So it’s a way of supporting Martlets ongoing without even thinking about it. 

If you’d like to support us, visit our fundraising page for all sorts of exciting ideas on how to get involved. You can also sign up to our Martlets Lottery and be in with a chance of winning our top weekly prize of £1,500.