Friday, 13 December 2013

Tedworth House Recovery Centre by Margaret Graham

Tedworth House - Tidworth is one of four Recovery Centres run by Help for Heroes, which forms part of the Defence Recovery Capability.  Tedworth House aims to inspire the wounded, injured and sick and returning veterans to lead active, independent and fulfilling lives, which will enable them to reach their full potential and to support them and their families for life.   It is a place of opportunities providing education, training, sport and adventure in a relaxed, understanding and caring environment.  State of the art facilities and dedicated staff aid the path to recovery.

This opening paragraph describes Tedworth House and it seems there is little more to say. But of course there is. 

When the W4W team had a look round last year it was still a work in progress, so off we went again at the end of November. This time supporters and patrons joined us to find that Tedworth House is absolutely and fantastically finished. 

True to form, we started at The Boot Inn, Shipton Bellinger. We found this great pub on our last visit and this year Sally and Lee were patient and helpful as the group booking changed almost hour by hour, as always seems to happen on these occasions. Our trip was so long in the preparation that naturally some of the party  found they were unable to come after all. Not a problem as their places were snapped up by others eager to see where the proceeds of Words for the Wounded 2nd writing prize would land.

One of our group, Barry Mazey, kept an eye on the time over lunch and herded us off to Tedworth House in good order! He knew I would probably be too busy talking to keep my finger on the pulse. What's more, as an army veteran he has an inbuilt clock. 

Simon Dyer's work

Tucked away in glorious grounds Tedworth house seemed to have grown since our last visit. We walked from the car park to reception, past Simon Dyers evocative sculpture and then on  into the majestic foyer. There is the most beautiful chandelier and stained glass window  in this area and looking at these Barry remembered coming for dinner when it had been an Officers' Mess about 10 years ago. Indeed, last time the W4W team did the rounds it was explained that Help for Heroes wanted only the best for their mates and that the house would be as splendid as it had been when it was a private house and then an Officers' Mess. They have succeeded. 

After tea or coffee we listened to a presentation by the Centre Manager, Giles Woodhouse in which he explained the ethos of Help for Heroes, focussing as he did so on some of their inspiring recovering personnel. He underlined, also, the need to continue raising funds. Did you know that many of the wounded are aged between 20 and 24 and will continue to need back up for 50 years if not more? Not sure I had totally taken this on board. Added to this is the fact that the troops will be out of Afghanistan soon, and probably out of the public eye, but Giles made clear that the needs of the recovering must not also fade. So we all have work to do. 

After the presentation we joined the lovely Susan Gibbings - Front of House Team Leader for a tour, nipping outside first. Bit parky it was too! To the rear and right of the picture is the playground for the children of those staying or visiting here. I gather that the personnel make full use of the woods - something to do with den building, and this that and the other. I think I must be going deaf. I missed a bit here and there.
As we tripped around the outside it became clear that indeed Tedworth House has grown just as I thought. The facilities are numerous and wondrous, honestly they are. There is a ski slope, a swimming pool, both 'resistant' so it must be a bit like going down an 'up' escalator. You have to work really hard and work against the current.

Jan, one of the W4W team, is an avid skier and had to be held back. The gym was perfect, so too the basketball pitch on which many other games are played too, from the sitting position of course. On and on we went. We even glimpsed an equestrian centre  then back into the main house and a look at the rooms. As well as the single rooms beautifully furnished there are family rooms and privacy is ensured with the provision of a nearby kitchen so people can come and go as they please. The doors and corridors of the house are as wide as they have always been but they are easy to open with the use of some sort of hydraulic help. Everywhere there are cheerful painting and prints on the walls, all of neutral subjects which won't trigger unpleasant memories. Nothing has been left to chance.

There is a creative arts room where all sorts of activities  take place including creative writing workshops. It is these activities that we are supporting in this year's competition.
 I was particularly delighted to meet another member of the public on the tour. She is a member of the FANYS, the volunteer First Aid Nursing Yeomanry which has existed since 1907 and though civilian they are in support of the military. She lives in High Wycombe as I do, and was eager to spread the word about Words for the Wounded amongst her fellow FANYS. Thank you, Philippa!

And that about wrapped it up. It was a thought provoking experience and made us even more determined to continue to provide opportunities for writers on the one hand and funds for those who need them on the other. Tedworth House Recovery Centre is utterly essential to the recovery of our wounded - physical and emotional. It made us more grateful than ever to those of you who donate or/and enter Words for the Wounded writing prize, our patrons, and our supporters, including Writers' Forum who are publishing our winners again. Thank you so much from us all.

And a very Merry Christmas and fantastic 2014

Ho Ho Ho