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Digging deep for our community: Theo and Cath

Digging deep for our community: Theo and Cath

Father and daughter gardening duo Theo and Cath, share a love for growing things, and a unique story that drives the countless hours they have spent volunteering as gardeners for Cranford Hospice.


Their commitment to the Cranford gardens began with Cath’s husband, Chris.

“This all started because Chris wanted to give to the Hospice before he took from it” Cath reflects.

Chris was first diagnosed with cancer in February 2012 and after treatment and surgery was in remission for two years. On the 25 January 2014, after struggling with headaches on a family holiday in England, it was confirmed the cancer was back.

“Our first contact with Cranford was in 2014, but we didn’t need their help until the beginning of 2018. Chris and I started volunteering in the hospice’s garden in September 2017 so he had something productive to do and to form a connection with hospice.

By volunteering, it took away the fear of actually coming into the hospice, because you know so many people already.

Volunteering in the gardens absolutely saved me – it gave me a focus”.

When Chris’ health meant he could no longer volunteer in the gardens, Cath’s father Theo started volunteering too.

Join Cath & Theo by donating today to help build your hospice

Cath and Theo reflect on the care provided by Cranford Hospice when mum and wife, Janice, also entered hospice in 2019.

“The day mum actually came in, I walked through the door and there were Diane, Danny and Paula. It was almost like coming home”.

It’s like a family”, Theo adds.

Theo promised Janice that he would keep her at home for as long as possible.

“The nurses came in every day. And at times if I needed them, I would ring up in the middle of the night, and half an hour later they would be here”.

Cath was also able to care for Chris at home with the support from the Cranford Hospice Community Nursing Team.

“Because hospice was able to help myself and Theo, I was able to keep Chris at home right to the end and my mum was at home pretty much until the end. It was special to be able to do that”.

Cath & Theo’s volunteer gardening efforts have now extended from the current hospice facility in Knight Street, Hastings, to also include the site of the new home for Cranford at Chesterhope, Pakowhai.

Cranford Hospice was fortunate to receive a generous offer from the Joan Fernie Charitable Trust for a secluded rural site ‘Chesterhope’, located at Pakowhai, midway between Napier and Hastings. The established gardens – the Joan Fernie Gardens and Arboretum – provide a tranquil setting for patients and their whānau to receive the very best compassionate care and support that Cranford Hospice is known for.

“Every time I go to Chesterhope I get this wonderful sense of peace. Chris never went there, but I feel really connected to him out there”.

Together with a small group of volunteer gardeners, Cath and Theo have been working to maintain the gardens ready for the build of new facility. Theo holds decades of experience as a plantsman and Cath has inherited Theo’s love for growing things.

“There’s something about bringing something to life and nurturing it to fruition that is very special”. Cath shares.

Cath and Theo have spent hours digging up thousands of bulbs and plants around the property and transporting them to a nursery they have created under the original berry cage on the property.

“The plan was if we could save as much as we could of the original plants and bulbs, it would be keeping with Joan’s philosophy of preserving, taking original plants forward for the future”.

Cath and Theo talk of the beauty of Chesterhope and what the new home for Cranford will mean for patients and whānau receiving hospice care.

“Each season at Chesterhope is magic. In Autumn with all the leaves coming down, fantastic for leaf rustling. And in winter you look around with the camellias coming out and you can actually see through beyond the trees, and it gives you a whole different perspective than you get in summer”.

“If you need to talk, or just need a bit of space, you are very limited at Knight Street, but at Chesterhope you could easily find a space where no one else is – to just go and have your time by yourself”, Cath explains.

This spring will see the Chesterhope gardens come to life and signify the start of a new journey for Cranford Hospice, as we ask the Hawke’s Bay community to join us to help build their new hospice.

Our new home for Cranford will hold a unique place in the heart of the Hawke’s Bay community. A place where we can support our loved ones at the end of life. A place that will provide a hub for palliative care services for generations to come.

The estimated cost of the project is $15 million. We know it is a lot of money, but we are confident the people of Hawke’s Bay will pledge their support to bring this project to life.

We’ve been humbled by early support from key supporters and trusts. However, we now need the whole community to get behind us and help finish what we’ve started.

“It is special because we are developing something for the future, for the community, and that is a real privilege and pleasure” Cath shares.

Your support is crucial for the success of this urgent project. Join us by donating today to help build your hospice.

We invite you to come and experience the idyllic setting of Chesterhope, the home of the new Cranford, during our Open Days in September and October.

Donate today to help build your new hospice