Park ‘buddy bench’ earmarked to combat isolation in Sussex village

Tony Duffy on the park seat now unofficially designated a buddy bench
Tony Duffy on the park seat now unofficially designated a buddy bench

Public gardens in Billingshurst could prove a lifeline for the lonely following the introduction of a new ‘buddy bench.’

Quick-thinking local resident Tony Duffy erected a sign inviting people to chat on the bench in Station Road Gardens following an idea sparked via social media.

The sign erected on the park bench  SR1917421 SUS-190629-153620001

The sign erected on the park bench SR1917421 SUS-190629-153620001

The sign reads: ‘This is a Billingshurst Buddy Bench! Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello.’

IT worker Tony decided to take action when fellow Billingshurst resident Clare Piggot took to Facebook and highlighted a similar ‘chat bench’ on Burnham seafront and said: ‘Every village should have one.’

While social media posts suggested ways of making it happen, Tony went into action and made the sign, laminated it and tied it to the bench in Station Road Gardens.

“It was something that I could do quickly and simply - and it might help people,” he said. “There are plenty of other benches in the gardens if people don’t want to use this one.”

Tony has also placed a similar sign on a bench outside Lloyds Chemist in Billingshurst High Street - muich to the delight of many in the village.

A number of residents have taken to social media to praise Tony’s initiative. One man posted: “Great idea. Most people are very happy to chat to a stranger in a safe environment.”

And a woman added: “I think that it’s a wonderful idea.”

“Amazing idea,” said another.

A number of schools in and around Horsham already have similar ‘buddy bench’ seats where children can sit to signify that they would like to play and chat with others.