THREE newly refurbished public benches in Tavistock town centre have been given a new lease of life to help support mental health, reduce loneliness and encourage sociability.

A partnership between the wellbeing group Men in Sheds, Tavistock Town Council and Tavistock Lions has ensured shoppers, visitors and workers will have the choice of sitting on a newly designated ‘chatty bench’ as well as on the many existing benches.

All the new so-called chatty benches will be clearly labelled as such, so anyone who chooses to sit on one can be assured that whoever joins them will be happy to chat, if required.

There is also the additional option – to access mental health support advice by scanning a QR code attached to the bench.

The concept of chatty benches first came about nationwide in a bid to combat isolation by bringing people togther again after a year of pandemic social distancing and enforced staying at home.

The benches give people a chance to have a conversation with someone, even if they do not know them.

It is acknowledged that loneliness, the ‘silent’ epidemic’ still persists and affects all ages.

Paul Blowey, of Tavistock Lions, said: “The two benches which Men in Sheds have kindly refurbished for Tavistock Town Council are ready for inspection. The initial idea was brought to a Tavistock Lions club meeting by one of our members who had seen a chatty bench in Bude.

“This is a bench which if you choose to sit on the bench, you need to be aware that anyone sharing the bench with you might wish to engage in conversation, hence its name ‘chatty’ bench.

A plaque on the chatty bench includes a QR code which, once read with a QR code reader on a mobile phone, will take the user to a page on Tavistock Lions website. This offers a number of useful links to mental health awareness. “The page will be updated and managed by Tavistock Lions and is there for anyone who needs any form of mental health support.”

The bench in the recess of the church wall on Bedford Square will now become a chatty bench, with the second bench replacing one opposite the Wharf complex, both with plaques prepared by Men in Sheds.

A third plaque will be fixed to a bench in the Tavistock Community Sensory Garden which has been permitted by Richard Jones, chairman of the garden’s trustees.

The plaque was donated by Ben Jones, a student of Okehampton College, as part of his A-level design and technology coursework.

Cllr Andy Hutton, Tavistock mayor, said: “I think the chatty bench is a lovely idea. In Tavistock we have people who are lonely and people who are happy to talk, let’s encourage them to get together. It’s a great team effort, thanks to the Lions, Men in Sheds and the Town Council for making it happen. I look forward to sitting on them myself.”

It is hoped that the mayor and a member of Tavistock Lions, will formally open the benches at a date to be confirmed in the near future.