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Visit to the Balsam Centre of HRH The Countess of Wessex on 1st November 2017

The Countess of Wessex
Photographs: Oscar Yoosefinejad

The Balsam Centre welcomed Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex to the Centre this week, with children from both Conkers and Balsam Nursery to greet her as she arrived.

Her Royal Highness had a tour of the Centre, meeting beneficiaries, staff, volunteers and trustees, and dropped in on a number of the different social, therapeutic and support groups and activities taking place that day. In every group and activitiy, The Countess of Wessex stopped and chatted to people, playing with the children in the Balsam Multiples group, and helping the IT learners to download apps. Everyone enjoyed meeting her!

The Countess of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex

Following her tour, we had the official launch of the Well Wessex group of charities. The four established charities working together to improve mental health in Somerset are: The Balsam Centre, Creativity Works, Heads Up! and Chard Watch. Each charity has its own individual approach and all include use of peer support to assist in recovery and maintenance of good mental health and wellbeing. The charities have been developing a new and effective model to meet the many challenges and changes currently taking place in the field of mental health.

Other News!

The Balsam Video

The video about The Centre that saw the film crew pop in to our groups this summer is now finished! It will allow anyone who is thinking about donating to the Centre to see what we do and hear the beneficiaries talk about what The Balsam Centre means to them. See the video here.

masonic charitable foundation award

The Masonic Charitable Foundation giving us a hand!

The Masonic Charitable Foundation Awards us £15,000

We are delighted to announce that the Masonic Charitable Foundation have given us £15,000 - many thanks to those of you who voted for us on their website. We are thrilled to have won the grant; it will help us to continue the valuable services that we offer here.

masonic charitable foundation award

aviva community award

We need your votes!

The Aviva Community Fund is an initiative that lends a helping hand to local communities by offering support and funding for inspirational local causes. It will finance over 500 projects across four different fund levels and four categories, giving awards to communities throughout the UK.

One of our lovely volunteers, Tim Fry, has nominated the Balsam Centre cafe to be one of those inspirational causes and his nomination has been accepted.

Please vote for us!

Click here to register and vote!

If our project gets enough votes and wows our judges, it will be in with a chance of receiving those much-needed funds.

loose ends cafe

New Groups

A Cancer Support Group has started at the centre, to support anyone affected by cancer. This is an activities group - knitting, felting, crochet and other crafts - providing a chance to have some "down-time" within a supportive group.

Tuesday Family Morning is a new playgroup for under 5s and their carers. Open to all, it starts Tuesday 3rd October, 9am - 11am. A chance for children and carers to make new friends!

And now a Wednesday Family Afternoon playgroup is starting on the 6th December, 1.30pm - 3pm!

HUB2 Coffee Morning is now in the large "Shed", upstairs, on Wednesday mornings from 8.45am to 10.45am (finishing at 10am on the first Wednesday of the month). All welcome - including children (toys will be provided).

IT courses have restarted for anyone with a tablet - and YHG residents have the chance to get a free new tablet to keep! The courses will be running to April next year, and there will be more IT Drop-ins too, so if you're having problems with your laptop, tablet, ipad or mobile phone, drop in for some help. Check the IT page for details of times and venues.

There will be a new Buggy Walk, starting in April 2018 from the Centre every Tuesday, 1.30pm. It lasts about 45 minutes and ends up back at the Centre for a cup of coffee.

We now have a Women's Shed! Every Tuesday evening, 6.30 - 8.30pm - come along and learn a new craft and meet new people. This is a relaxed and friendly group that like to make together.

We have Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Blast Class... great exercise classes to relax, refresh and lift your mood.

Is anyone up for a challenge....?

Loose Ends Cafe

Jazz leaving the cafe

Jazz Bailey leaving the cafe

We are saying goodbye to Jazz Bailey at the cafe, who has been a great volunteer with us since she was 14. Jazz came with little cooking skills and leaves us a very proficient cook who has been making delicious meals with confidence - her Lemon Meringue Pie is legendary! We will miss her friendly, cheerful and calm demeanour in the kitchen but we wish her all the very best for her next adventure as she sets off to Strode College.

Maggie joins the cafe

Maggie is joining the cafe

A new member of the volunteering team is joining the kitchen - Maggie! Maggie is a cook with experience of cooking for large numbers of people and we are thrilled she is taking on the Loose Ends Cafe.

Loose Ends Cafe

Loose Ends Cafe

The Loose Ends Cafe serves lunch every Tuesday 12.45pm, with a meat/fish or vegetarian option, dessert and tea/coffee

If you are interested in joining the team, you don't have to have the experience that Maggie has, just a willingness to help out. It could be helping someone with special needs to volunteer in the kitchen, guiding them as they cook. Or maybe a group from your business would like to come and volunteer with us for the day, as a team from SPARK did recently.

Contact Annette 01963 31842 for more information.

Compton Castle

Compton Castle Open Gardens

Many thanks to Jane and Bill Hopkins for opening up their beautiful gardens at Compton Castle to visitors earlier this month, to raise funds for The Balsam Centre. The total raised was £3867!

Although we had a wet start and end to the day, this didn't deter the visitors and we were surprised how many came - more than twice the number we were expecting. The oppotunity to see the heart shaped lake was too good to miss.

Thank you to all the volunteers who came out to hold buckets, direct cars, and serve cakes, along with those who made cakes for us and gave us produce to sell. And thank you to Justin for taking the photos!


Compton Castle Volunteers

No amount of rain put us off

glastonbury festival

And who could resist stroking the hedges?!

the crowd

There were plenty of plants for sale...

Compton Castle plants

..and Pimms!

Sponsored Hikes, Marathons and Company Volunteering

Would your company be interested in volunteering with us for the day? Emily Sheaf is our latest company volunteer, spending the day helping people to get online and use their tablets or smartphones. In June Spark came to volunteer for us, running the Loose Ends Cafe one Tuesday - delicious chilli! And Wincanton Racecourse are coming next week, helping us to treat the Art Shed. It's a great way for your team to get out together and get involved in the community - and it's fun!

Robert Frith Opticians completed a sponsored walk for us, raising a fantastic £500 for the Mens Shed Project and our own Berry Bernsen ran the Marathon for us last year. If you might be interested in a sponsored walk, we can even help you plan and reccy the walk with our own volunteers.

company volunteering

Emily Sheaf from Enterprise Car Hire in the IT Drop-in

If you are interested in company volunteering or taking on a team fundraising challenge - or if you have any other ideas - talk to Sue or Annette, 01963 31842.

The Mens Shed

Myakka and the Somerset Community Foundation

present the Mens Shed with £1660

In July funding for the Mens Shed came to an end.... but not the Mens Shed! Spurred on by the desire to see the Shed continue, the shedders set to work, building planters and auricula theatres for sale, and applied for funding from Somerset Community Foundation to buy new tools.

Local firm Myakka stepped in to donate £1660 and everyone came together for the cheque presentation. Myakka have already given the shedders advice on their tools shopping list and donated wood off-cuts for the shedders to use - great support from a local business - thank you! It means the Mens Shed can now buy a wood lathe and start wood turning - look out for next year's Christmas presents here....

And if you are interested in the Mens Shed, pop in on a Tuesday or Thursday morning from 10am. This is a friendly group who enjoy coming together for building and banter and we welcome new members whatever their ability.

glastonbury festival

The first team on shift!

The Balsam Team - another great year, stewarding at Glastonbury Festival 2017

19 GREAT volunteers made up the team this year, stewarding a new area, four gates within the South East Corner of the festival. We worked with two teams we'd not met before, Livewire and Friends of Brides Mount, who were fun to work with.
With more team members and more hours worked, we are hoping to beat our last year's figure of £2100 - we'll let you know!
glastonbury festival

Andy and Adam on shift

glastonbury festival

Rajasthan Circus

glastonbury festival

Lu - the backbone of the team!

glastonbury festival

The Welfare Team - Norman cheering everyone up with mermaid leggings...!

glastonbury festival

Jack kindly lending a punter some hair

glastonbury festival

Before the tents arrive...

glastonbury festival

and finally getting all the tents back into the box - many thanks to Sarah Dyke for the loan of her sheep trailer!

WW1 Project

World War 1 Heritage Project

Led by artist Sophie Bellars, the community came together to create a series of mixed media artworks to commemorate the men and women who fought in WW1, involving students from Wincanton Primary School and King Arthur's Community School, along with residents of Carrington House, the Guides and Wincanton Youth Club. Wincanton Museum and History Society and the Library brought together documents and artifacts from the period.

The event culminated on the 5th July with historical exhibitions at the Library and Museum and with the artwork on display at The Balsam Centre where we were joined by the Chapel Cross Tearoom Choir who sang songs from the period.


The sketchbooks of Constance Bailward

During WW1, a local young woman, Constance Bailward, was a nurse in the hospital installed at the Priory. She filled a sketchbook full of drawings and verse, describing daily life at the hospital. This fantastic historical resource was one of the central pieces of the event, and inspired the drama created by the students from King Arthur's school.

Carrington House Residents

Women from Carrington House worked with Sophie to create a roll-call of those from the community who lost their lives in WW1, embroidering the names and regimental insignia to create a large patchwork blanket. It was an opportunity for women to come together and talk about how they learnt and used their sewing skills over their lifetimes.

Carrington Resident
The Guides

The Guides

The 2nd Wincanton Guides took their inspiration from WW1 weapons. The Museum lent them some original weapons from the war, allowing the Guides to get a sense of what it might be like to be in the midst of war.

Starting with their initial reactions to the weapons, Sophie worked with the Guides to paint and print onto fabric, and the Guides then sewed the pieces together to recreate the missiles in the form of soft sculptures.

Wincanton Primary School and King Arthur's Community School

Year 5 pupils from the primary school collaborated with year 7 and 8 pupils from King Arthur's to study the stain glass windows in St Peter's and St Paul's Church. One of the windows depicts St George and was paid for by a local family to commemorate their son who was killed at the Somme - St George's face might be that of Lance Corporal Cash. The pupils designed and painted their own stained glass windows to put up in the Balsam Centre for the WW1 Heritage exhibition.

Primary students
The Youth Club

Wincanton Youth Club

Sophie joined with members of the Youth Club to look at the story of a local lad, Harry Hamblin who lived on West Hill and was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

After joining the Reserves, Harry was drafted into a Navy battalion and sent to the front. After recovering from an initial injury, he was sent back to the front where he was killed. Using a photograph of Harry in uniform, the club told his story through a series of images and text to create a time-line of the events that led up to his death.

King Arthur's Community School Drama

Susan Huggins, Drama Director and co-creator of The Ministry of Play and Director of The Octagon Theatre Company, Yeovil, worked with Year 9 Drama students to create a work inspired by Nurse Bailward’s sketchbook which was performed in the gardens at the Balsam Centre as part of the Sketches of Wartime Wincanton.

Primary students

It was an inspiring day, clearly reminding us of the effect the war had on this one small community, encouraging people to tell their own stories and the impact the war had on their own families.

Many thanks to Sophie Bellars for developing this great project and for inspiring so many others to take part! Thanks, too, to all those that took part, and those that supported it in so many ways.

Support Us!

The Balsam Centre is an independent charity set up by local people for local people.

Whilst the work of the Centre is long term, funding for its projects and services is all too frequently short term.

It is largely thanks to help from a fund created by a legacy left by one person, that the Balsam Centre has been able to continue its mental health work over the last few years. The help that this has given hundreds of people is a permanent and living memorial to that person’s generosity.

If you are thinking of donating, have you considered becoming a Friend of the Balsam Centre? This is a commitment to regular giving of any amount, at any interval, by standing order, and even better, if you are a UK tax payer and you ‘tick’ to say so, we can claim another 25% on top of your donation to support the work of the Centre. Become a Friend here!


We now have a Virgin Giving charity page where you can donate directly, and Virgin will collect the tax for us! Just click on the button below.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving