A MAGNIFICENT 17th century manor house near Kingsbridge, Devon is being transformed into a Veterans’ Peace Centre.
The aim is to share the tranquility of Ranscombe Manor with people who have experienced trauma, particularly service men and women who have returned from military conflicts.
Britain has one of the highest numbers of veterans in the developed world, with the Royal British Legion estimating there to be about 4.8 million in 2009.
Katy Gostick and Pat Byrne, co-founders of the centre, formed the Healing and Spiritual Network in 2013, and began working towards their long-held dream of helping people, their loved ones and the wider community who suffer as a result of conflict. They moved into Ranscombe Manor last year, and have since been working hard to get the project off the ground. Katy has a background in energy release work and healing therapies, while Pat’s background is in animal therapy healing. Pat explained what they hope to achieve at the centre: ‘When veterans come back to civilian life, they can feel quite alone, with no one around who has shared their experiences. Some suffer from acute depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses. ‘We hope to provide a place for emotional restoration and camaraderie, where people can come, be quiet and talk to people who understand.’
Katy and Pat have an ever-growing team of people in support of the project, including Warrant Officer Matt Tomlinson, a Royal Marine based at Stonehouse barracks in Plymouth; Mark Ormrod, a former Royal Marine who lost three limbs in Afghanistan; Mark Paine, a veteran and fundraiser and Mike Powell, a friend and supporter of the centre. Warrant Officer Tomlinson said: ‘When you suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, you are always trying to find an answer, a solution, a plan to get back to the person you once were. It’s a long journey that will take years to complete, it’s a unique journey owned by only yourself. ‘The Veterans’ Peace Centre is part of that journey, its one of the stops you need to make on the road to recovery. You will find inner peace, and meet some lovely caring people who understand your suffering. ‘It truly is a place that emits a sense of peace and security. Upon arrival there is a calm soothing aura that immediately puts one at ease, and for those seeking inner peace, Ranscombe Manor is the perfect location.
WO1 Tomlinson continued: ‘I cannot imagine a better setting which will enable restoration, recovery and personal recuperation for those suffering the effects of trauma. ‘The Veterans’ Peace Centre will clearly benefit all those service men and women who have experienced life changing incidents throughout their service to the country. ‘The atmosphere of peace, silence, and allowance of personal space allows the visitor to hopefully release their memories of traumatic and tragic events. Enabling them to better deal with the unsettling, difficult after effects they are suffering on a daily basis. ‘This centre will support and enable us to try and get back to the person we once knew. Ranscombe Manor is truly a place of peace and solitude.’
Katy Gostick has personal experience of the trauma associated with war. Her son, Dale died while he was serving in Afghanistan with the Royal Marines at the age of 22 in May 2008. This experience made her realise the lack of support available to people when they’ve lost someone close. Katy said: ‘People need a network. A lot of people think that they have been forgotten. Many of the members of the armed services will not admit to needing a bit of help or that they are struggling, so we won’t label anything. ‘We’re just here to help in any way that we can – both them and their families.’
Their goal is to invite veterans in need of peace and tranquility to stay at Ranscombe Manor for a while. There are barns, which they aim to convert into luxury accommodation, with a view to looking after ten veterans at a time, giving them the opportunity to recuperate. Pat added: ‘When we started this project, we quickly realised that everybody suffers from stress and trauma. This place is for them, a place where they can come to be understood.’
Mark Ormrod, the UK’s first triple amputee said: ‘I have to say that when I recently visited the Veterans’ Peace Centre it far exceeded everything that I was expecting. ‘Set in beautiful grounds surrounded by incredible scenery, it’s undeniable that as soon as you drive through the gates, ’peace’ is the first thought that springs to mind. ‘I was quite taken back by just how quiet the place was, the sounds of the birds singing and the nearby trickle of the water feature instantly made me feel at one with myself. ‘After having a tour, meeting the team involved and listening to everything the place has to offer, I left that day and as I was driving away I thought to myself ‘this is something that veterans and their families need.’’
The Veterans’ Peace Centre is currently in need of urgent funding to support centre expenses for the coming year. They hope to ensure the project can safely move forward, with the eventual aim of purchasing the property and sustaining it for future years.
They are reaching out to the local community for support, and are looking for people to help out in any way they can, particularly with specialist skills such as public relations and information technology.
They are currently struggling to stay afloat, and need more help than ever.
The Veterans’ Peace Centre also hold regular meditation classes and workshops which are open to members of the public.
For further information, telephone the centre on 01548 854545.