Keith champions dementia-friendly Buxton in tribute to late wife

Keith Horncastle, left, next to Margaret Knowles and the staff from the Cavendish Hospital, on the roof-top garden planting the primula Val Horncastle.
Keith Horncastle, left, next to Margaret Knowles and the staff from the Cavendish Hospital, on the roof-top garden planting the primula Val Horncastle.

Campaigner Keith Horncastle wants to make Buxton a dementia-friendly town in honour of his wife who fought the illness for six and half years.

He and Val always put the residents of Buxton first and in 2006 campaigned to re-open the Spencer Ward at the Cavendish Hospital which looks after elderly people with mental illnesses.

They also devised a memory calendar to help people with dementia remember what is important to them each day.

This is Keith’s first year without Val, and since her death he has trained as a dementia champion and is now taking his mission into local shops.

He said: “I want there to be at least one person in shops and businesses who have received some dementia training so if a person comes in who is feeling a bit forgetful they know how to deal with that person in a dignified and respectful manner.

“I have seen what dementia can do, but I want to be a message of hope to try and get rid of the stigma attached to the illness.

“Yes there are bad times but Val had a quality of life right until the end.”

Keith will be working on the Dementia Action Alliance stall at Buxton Spring Fair where a flower, which was named after her, will be on display.

Back in the 1980s, Val worked at Micro Plants in Longnor where the firm developed a unique double primula and named it Primula Val Horncastle, and Keith thinks this was because “she was a very determined and persistent lady”.

He said: “After Val died in November I searched to find anywhere selling the flower because although I have some in the garden, I wanted some more to say thank-you to the people who looked after us.”

Luckily he managed to track down the flower and one has now been planted in the roof garden of the Spencer Ward where Val received care in the later stages of her illness.

Keith added: “The ward and staff are fantastic.

“When Val was in there we used to sit in the garden and look at the plants, so it seemed right for her memory to live on there.”