Blind veteran gardener from Hayling Island visits military charity’s Hampton Court show garden

Daphne in garden v2

A blind veteran from Hayling Island who has received vital support from Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, has visited the charity’s gold medal-winning show garden at the prestigious RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this July.

Daphne Somerfield, 93, and from Hayling Island, visited the garden as part of a special week of gardening activities for blind veterans with green fingers held at the Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton.

Daphne says: “I joined the WRNS in 1943.  I loved it!  To a young woman then it was all very exciting.  Girls in those days were far more restricted in what they could do and the Wrens gave me my freedom.  After leaving the Wrens I became a teacher”.

“It came as a huge shock to me, going blind.  I knew my sight was bad but it was still a shock when I was told I was legally blind”.

“I was told about Blind Veterans UK by the Hayling Island Blind Club.  It is a wonderful charity and they have been incredibly helpful to me.  Meeting people of your own generation and in similar circumstances is lovely.  I met two other ex-Wrens and we really hit it off.  The charity arranged for the three of us to stay together at their Llandudno centre for a holiday at the same time.  I don’t think I have laughed as much in years!

“I think the best thing about the charity is their attitude that nothing is impossible, even if you are blind.  It gives you huge confidence”.

“The charity has provided me with a CCTV magnified meaning I can read and I have been on a few IT courses run by them to improve my computing skills”.

The Blind Veterans UK ‘It’s all about community’ garden has been designed by celebrated designers Andrew Fisher Tomlin & Dan Bowyer and it will be one of the largest show gardens at Hampton Court this year. The garden was one of three to receive a prestigious gold medal.

Blind Veterans UK supports veterans regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight. The Blind Veterans UK community has grown and the charity now supports more than 4,500 veterans, more than ever before in its history.

However, the charity estimates that there are up to 55,000 blind veterans that would be eligible to access its specialist support but are not currently aware of it.

Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: “This garden, at the prestigious RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, is a fantastic opportunity to reach out to the thousands of blind veterans out there who don’t know they’re entitled to our support.

“Blind Veterans UK has set an ambitious target to double the number of veterans we support in the next five years. This garden represents the community of blind veterans that we hope to grow. As the average age of the veterans we support is rising, we have now extended our services to provide more practical and emotional support closer to our beneficiary’s own communities.

“If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and is now battling severe sight loss then please do get in touch with us.”

Daphne says: “I had a fantastic time visiting the Hampton Court flower show.  I was a very keen gardener but since having knee replacements I can’t do anywhere near as much in the garden as I used to.  I do still grow my own fruit and vegetables though.  My garden is still my greatest joy”.

“It is marvellous that the Blind Veterans show garden is being used to reach out to more veterans that could get their support.  I really would recommend getting in touch with the charity if you even think you might be eligible.  Not just for the generosity but for the spirit of the organisation”.

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning WWII to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more than a century, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision-impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight. If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and is now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help by calling 0800 389 7979 or visiting

For all media enquiries please contact: Felix Arbenz-Caines, PR Assistant, Blind Veterans UK, 12 – 14 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HD, E:, T: 020 7616 7941

Notes to Editor

Blind Veterans UK

Blind Veterans UK is a national charity that believes that no-one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone. Founded in 1915, the charity provides blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women with lifelong support including welfare support, rehabilitation, training, residential and respite care.

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